September 27, 2005
The Neighbor's Wife and Mine, 1931
Heinosuke Gosho's The Neighbor's Wife and Mine is a breezy and efferverscent slice-of-life comedy on a harried - and easily distracted - freelance writer (Atsushi Watanabe) whose deadline for a commission work to write a play for a theater company in Tokyo is quickly approaching. Scouting for a suitable retreat where he can complete his draft, the playwright comes upon a house for rent in a quiet, rural enclave and decides to move in with his young family. However, the seemingly idyllic town soon proves to be a source of its own distractions, from mice scrurrying in the attic, to stray cats foraging in the garden, to the children waking in the middle of the night to demand their parents' attention. The final straw comes when a jazz band begins to rehearse at a neighboring house, prompting the playwright to pay a visit to the lady of the household, a Western-dressed moga (modern girl) who invites him to their jam session. The first all-talkie motion picture made in Japan, the film effectively showcases the strength of the technology, from evocative sound effects, to subtle inflections in dialogue, to the fully formed presentation of unconventional, cutting-edge music: a fitting and ebullient celebration and warm embrance of modern ways, creativity, and an open mind.