The Kinoshita Project: The Good Fairy (1951)

The Kinoshita Project is a chronological look at all the Keisuke Kinoshita films available from the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus. 

Up until now, we should have learned at least one thing about Keisuke Kinoshita: he loves the pure of heart. His heroes are typically young and idealistic to the point of naiveté. The fact that Kinoshita rarely privileges anyone beyond their 20s becomes extremely acute in The Good Fairy, which, even if it doesn’t carry the poetic heights of The Girl I Loved or the comic brilliance of The Portrait, might be the most mature expression of his vision so far. The honor and self-sacrifice of its hero is so thorough that it crosses over the line, moving from melodrama and into horror. What he does and the alliances he chooses are anathema to the understanding of most people, myself included. What he does is both right and sick. His actions, in the ordinary world, would be classified as insane. Continue reading

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The Kinoshita Project: The Portrait (1948)

The Kinoshita Project is a continuing series, looking at the Keisuke Kinoshita films made available on Hulu Plus from Criterion. 

If ever there were an appropriate movie to apply the term “dramedy” to, Keisuke Kinoshita’s The Portrait would be the one. Here is a film that weaves between comic weightlessness and heavy drama with almost unnoticeable ease. And when Kinoshita isn’t busy throwing jokes our way or pummeling us with dramatic tension, he manages to impress upon us, in his own inimitable way, the beauty of innocence. Yes, this appears to be Kinoshita in is prime element, unable to be confused with the work of any other director that I know of.

But despite the singular quality of the film, it turns out that The Portrait was written by none other than Akira Kurosawa. If it weren’t for the credits, you’d never know, because The Portrait bears almost no resemblance to Kurosawa’s frenetic brand of cinema. It does, however, bear the marks of his overt, sometimes overbearing humanism. Audie Bock, in her book Japanese Film Directors, suggests that Kinoshita had commissioned the script so as to challenge himself in new directions. In the end, The Portrait is all Kinoshita, but it also manages to provide an interesting aside to Kurosawa’s illustrious career.  Continue reading