Ginza Cosmetics (1951)

Ginza Cosmetics (Ginza keshô)movie_ginza_cosmetics_ginza_cosmetics
Directed by Mikio Naruse
Written by Matsuo Kishi from a novel by Tomoichirô Inoue
1951/Japan
Ito Productions
First viewing/Hulu

 

“I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists. I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings are only the objects of pity, and that kind of love which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.” ― Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

This quiet film got under my skin.

Yukiku Tsuji is a single mother who supports herself and her son by working as a hostess at a bar in the Ginza district of Tokyo.  Her work primarily consists of flattering the losers that come in so that they continue to buy overpriced drinks while she talks with them.  Some of the other girls are tempted to earn more money by accepting invitations to go out with the men after the bar closes for the night, but not Yukiko.  The beginning of the film illustrates the hazards of the bar hostess trade from non-paying customers to old admirers who stick around to borrow money.  The business is doing so badly that the owner is thinking of selling.  Yukiko has almost no time with her young son.

Yukiko tries help out the owner by borrowing 200,000 yen from a horrible old admirer and is practically raped in the process.  Then a friend asks her to show a visitor from the countryside whom the friend is interested in around Tokyo.  The decency of this young man begins to make Yukiko think a better life might be possible but she is called away when her son goes missing.

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This is a small film without much in the way of plot. It has some humor, mostly derived at the expense of Yukiko’s clients.  I found it kind of depressing though.  I really can’t think of anything worse that relying on cajoling men you don’t like to stay afloat.  The prospects just get worse as the women begin to age.  Naruse is famous for his compassion for women and their situation in post-war Japan and it is fully in evidence here.

2 thoughts on “Ginza Cosmetics (1951)

  1. This one sounds very tempting. I am very much inclined to seek this one out. I am reading Tale of Genji and though it is a thousand years old it is interesting that the role of women in Japan has changed so little up to the fifties.

    • I need to catch up to you on Tales of the Genji. I even own it. Interesting that one of Japan’s most famous classic authors was a woman.

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