Gosho’s most celebrated film both in Japan and the West, Where Chimneys Are Seen is perhaps the most compelling example of his concern for, and insights into, the everyday lives of lower-middle-class people. Based on Rinzo Shiina’s novel of the absurd, the film depicts the lives of two couples against the backdrop of Tokyo’s growing industrialization during the 1950s. Ken Uehara and Kinuyo Tanaka portray a tabi salesman and his lonely wife whose lives-along with those of their two timidly amorous lodgers (Hideko Takamine and Hiroshi Akutagawa)-are disrupted, and finally transformed, by the appearance of an abandoned baby on their tenement doorstep. The going metaphor-democratically shared by characters and filmmaker alike-is a mysterious group of chimneys which appear as one, two, three or four smokestacks, depending on the angle from which they are viewed. The people living in the vicinity develop a certain affection for the anomaly, and for the philosophy it suggests: “Life is whatever you think it is,” asserts one character. “It can be sweet or bitter, whichever you are.” —BAM/PFA
Heinosuke Gosho (1902–1981) began his career in 1925 as a disciple of Yasujiro Shimazu at Shochiku Studio. Young Gosho immediately proved his skill at the genre of “shomin-geki,” stories of the life of ordinary people, characteristic of his mentor’s work at that studio. Gosho’s early films were criticized as “unsound” because they often involved characters physically or mentally handicapped ( The Village Bride and Faked Daughter ). Gosho’s intention, however, was to illustrate a kind of warm and sincere relationship born in pathos. Today, these films are highly esteemed for their critique of feudalistic village life. Gosho was affected by this early criticism, however, and made his next films about other subjects. This led him into a long creative slump, although he continued to make five to seven films annually.
The first film by Gosho to attract attention was Lonely Hoodlum of 1927, a depiction of the bittersweet life of common people, Gosho’s characteristic subject. In 1931… read more