(Where Chimneys Are Seen; The Four Chimneys)
Director: Heinosuke Gosho
Production: Studio 8 Productions and Shin Toho Co.; black and white, 35mm; running time: 108 minutes; length: 9678 feet. Released 5 March 1953, Japan. Filmed in Japan.
Producer: Yoshishige Uchiyama; screenplay: Hideo Ogunil, from the novel Mujaki na Hitobito by Rinzo Shiina; assistant director: Akira Miwa; photography: Mitsuo Miura; editor: Nobu Nagata; sound: Yuji Dogen; art director: Tomoo Shimogahara; music: Yasushi Akutagawa.
Cast: Ken Uehara ( Ryukichi Ogata ); Kinuyo Tonaka ( Hiroko Oyata ); Hiroshi Akutagawa ( Kengo Kubo ); Hideko Takamine ( Senko Azuma ); Cheiko Seki ( Yukiko Ikeda ); Haruo Tanaka ( Chujiro Tsukahara ); Ranko Hanai ( Katsuko Ishibashi ).
Awards: Kinema Jumpo, Tokyo Citizen Film Concours Prize, 1953; Berlin Film Festival, International Peace Prize, 1954.
Mellen, Joan, The Waves at Genji's Door , New York, 1976.
Bock, Audie, Japanese Film Directors , New York, 1978; revised edition, Tokyo, 1985.
Garbicz, Adam, and Jack Klinowski, editors, Cinema, The Magic Vehicle: A Guide to Its Achievements: Journey 2 , Metuchen, New Jersey, 1979.
Anderson, Joseph, and Donald Richie, The Japanese Film: Art and Industry , revised edition, Princeton, 1982.
Anderson, Joseph, and Donald Richie, "The Films of Heinosuke Gosho," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1956.
Gillett, John, "Coca-Cola and the Golden Pavilion," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1970.
Gillett, John, "Heinosuke Gosho," in Film Dope (London), April 1980.
Tessier, Max, "Heinosuke Gosho," in Image et Son (Paris), June 1981.
Chevrie, Marc, "1. Gosho, cinéaste de la réconciliation," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1984.
Le Fanu, Mark, "To Love Is to Suffer," in Sight & Sound (London), Summer 1986.
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Johnson, William, "The Splitting Image," in Film Comment (New York), January-February 1991.
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The film's title Where Chimneys are Seen , refers to an industrial-residential area in Tokyo's downtown, where a set of huge chimneys is a familiar sight to its lower-middle-class inhabitants. The protagonist discovers that, according to where you are, the number of these chimneys varies from one to four. This observation typifies the philosophy of Rinzo Shiina (who wrote the original story) that nothing is absolutely true or false; everybody has to believe something or pretend to. Director Heinosuke Gosho takes splendid advantage of his most familiar subject, the life of ordinary people, and elegantly portrays their humor and pathos.
The story develops around the four main characters; Ryukichi, an honest salesman at a wholesale socks store; his diligent wife Hiroko whose previous marriage was unofficially terminated by her husband's disappearance during the war; their young upstairs lodgers, Kengo, a serious and good natured tax officer, and Senko, a pretty and vivacious bargain announcer on a commercial street. As Gosho seems to be more interested in depicting each character's personality and emotional situation and their interrelationships than in detailing a completed plot, he successfully makes the viewer feel intimate with these likable and good-willed people.
The film's light and humorous tone is first manifested in the opening narration by Ryukichi. In an aerial shot, the camera shows us downtown Tokyo, focusing on Ryukichi's busy neighborhood with its small houses packed together; his usual neighbors are presented as a constant yet unwitting source of humor (e.g., the weird, loud morning chanting of a religious leader and the radio repairman with seven children). Finally his modest household is shown, and the habitual peace is broken by the sudden appearance of the baby left by Hiroko's previous husband to Hiroko and Ryukichi. Though it obviously creates tension between the couple, ultimately the baby becomes a symbol of unification: the childless couple confirm their love through their care for the sick baby; Kengo's (the young man upstairs) voluntary efforts to locate the baby's parents make Senko aware of his character, thus drawing the couple closer together; and the baby's mother finally realizes her responsibility to reclaim the baby.
The film's narrative structure involves numerous episodes which look simplistic, but cumulatively show the charms of everyday life. A memorable example is the scene in which Senko plays with pencils on Kengo's desk during their conversation on his daily, frustrating search for the baby's parents. This scene is noteworthy not only for its intimate humor, but also for its meditative effect, for the pencils, like the chimney, make Senko realize the relativity of life. Another good example is the scene in which Senko's modern girlfriend follows an older woman on the river bank—after the older one's sandal gets broken, the other also takes off one of her shoes. This lame pair create a wryly humorous image through their leisurely walking in the airy, bright morning light.
Gosho here, as in his other films, makes use of many close ups to indicate the subtle expressions of its characters. He also uses occasional long shots and long takes. Particularly effective is a long-shot sequence from a bus window where Kengo, after an exhausting search, notices the mystery of the chimneys. The fluidly vibrating image of the chimneys as the scenery swiftly passes is visually refreshing.
This film distinctively reflects the Japanese film's shomin-geki genre (films about the lives of ordinary people), with its superb characterizations, successful portrayal of everyday life and emotions, rich depiction of details and the particular bittersweet atmosphere created by skillful timing, comfortable pace and excellent acting. Overall, the film displays Gosho's belief that the sincere efforts of good people are understood and rewarded. This film not only has won the highest critical acclaim, but has also remained one of the most beloved of Gosho's films in Japan.