Giants and Toys

Dir: Yasuo Masamura
1958
Absolute complete insanity from Masamura
and all sorts of props go out to Fantoma DVD for bringing this out of obscurity. Imagine a mix of Willy Wonka, Network, and a 1940s screwball comedy, driven by a soundtrack like Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and you have a little sense of this film.
The setting is modern Japan in the late ’50s. Three caramel candy makers declare an all-out consumerist assault on society with a series of campaigns that begin to look a bit like war. We focus on one company, World Caramel, that hires a very common looking girl (Hitomi Nozoe) to be their spokesmodel, all the while trying to second-guess the other two companies on its way to complete market domination. At what point does decency and humanity go out the window and when does the race for a bottom line turn into a nosedive?
Furious in pace and devilishly funny (I particularly liked the earthy, sleazebag photographer) the film has to be experienced not described. In fact, though modern filmmaking looks fast, it often drags drags drags. Masamura just keeps blasting along, scene after scene, breathless, throwing people together, watching the sparks. He also employs a weird montage strategy involving the mid-level boss’s cigarette lighter. Some sort of family heirloom or gift, it takes about 50 strikes to get it to work. The incessant strikes are the gateway into several montages, one showing the candy being made, the other the marketing of the spokesmodel. Once the montage finishes (and it is usually double exposed with a close up of the lighter), Masamura returns to the scene and carries on. This is so strange (are we supposed to see the montage as happening concurrently or in the past?) that I can’t think of a single film before or since that has does such a thing.
On top of that, the film stops near the finale for a 4-minute dance sequence, featuring the now-successful spokesmodel and a chorus of men dressed up like savages.
After this film, and with memories of his similarly wacky “The Key” and “Blind Beast,” more Masamura films need to be released.

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