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Film / A Town of Love and Hope

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A Town of Love and Hope (愛と希望の街, sometimes called "A Street of Love and Hope") is a 1959 film from Japan, directed by Nagisa Oshima.

Masao is a teenaged boy who lives with his mother and little sister Yasue, in desperate poverty in a tumbledown shack located in a Tokyo slum. His mom ekes out a meager living shining shoes, except when her poor health (it's not quite an Incurable Cough of Death, but it's implied she's tubercular) prevents her from even doing that. With the family about an inch away from starving, Masao has a side hustle, earning money for food by selling pet pigeons. It's something of a racket: the pigeons have a nest in the slums where Masao lives. Whenever someone carelessly lets a pigeon out, the pigeon flies home to its nest, and Masao sells it again.

Masao attracts the attention of two do-gooder types. His teacher, Miss Akiyama, wants to help him, as does a rich girl named Kyoko who bought one of his pigeons. It so happens that Kyoko's family owns an electronics business, and she tries to get her family to give Masao a job. But when Kyoko and Miss Akiyama find out about Masao's pigeon racket, they don't take it well.

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Nagisa Oshima's debut film as a director.


Tropes:

  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Elements of this with Kyoko. She talks a big game, about how it's not right that her family's company discriminates against city boys, or how it's not fair that they specifically passed on Masao because he lives in a fatherless home. But when she finds out about the pigeon scam, she turns on a dime, not only cutting him off but shooting the pigeon.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A random comment establishes that 1) Kyoko's sister has a rifle, and 2) he sometimes uses it to shoot pigeons. That sets up the ending in which Kyoko gets her brother to shoot the pigeon after she lets it go.
  • The Con: At least everyone acts like it's a con, even though it's debatable if it really is. Masao sells pigeons, and, when they eventually escape and make it back home, he sells them again. He certainly isn't making huge amounts of money, although he is managing to pay for food.
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  • Disappeared Dad: No explanation is given for the whereabouts of Masao's father. He wasn't killed in the war, as Yasue is too young.
  • Downer Ending: Mostly. Kyoko and Masao's friendship is decisively ended, even if she cries after having the pigeon killed. Miss Akiyama and Yuji break up, after she becomes convinced that he can't really deal with their difference in social status. And Masao has to quit school to go to work in a factory to support the family. But the smile that flickers across his face as he works at the end indicates that he isn't all that unhappy with the way things turned out.
  • Fish out of Water: Kyoko the rich girl with her fancy white dress and her parasol is badly out of place when she visits Masao's slum, with its mud streets and flimsy shacks.
  • Inner City School: It's not quite an inner city in the American sense but the school that Miss Akiyama teaches at is full of students like Masao who live in the slums in dire poverty. She's an English teacher, and she wonders if she isn't wasting her time, because kids that desperately poor won't be benefited by using English.
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: An unusual instance of this trope, as Masao uses homing pigeons not to send messages, but for a sort of pigeon-selling racket in which he sells pigeons and then collects them again when they fly back to their nest.
  • Interclass Romance: Hints of this with Masao and Kyoko, although she doesn't seem to be that interested in him as a person at the end. But it's definitely happening with Miss Akiyama the schoolteacher, and Kyoko's brother Yuji. That plot line ends with Miss Akiyama dumping Yuji, telling him that his actions in refusing to hire Masao have convinced her that there's a social gap between the two of them that can never be bridged. He apparently agrees, because when she challenges him and asks him if he can bridge that gap, he walks away.
  • Kick the Dog: The end of the film sees a vengeful Kyoko getting her brother to shoot Masao's pigeon so it can't come home.
  • Plot Hole: Yuji says they found out about the pigeon scam through "a background check". How did that even work? Did they somehow find someone who not only had bought a pigeon from Masao, but who had bought the same one twice and figured it out?
  • Romantic Rain: It comes off as romantic when Masao and Kyoko walk through the rain together, sharing an umbrella. At least that's what some rude teenagers in the slum think, jeering "Lovers under the same umbrella!" when they see Masao and Kyoko.
  • Serious Business: Masao has a penny-ante semi-con with selling pigeons that's getting him little more than grocery money, but everyone acts like he strangled a baby.
  • Time Passes Montage: A quick montage shows Masao taking the written test to work at the factory, taking an oral exam, and getting a physical exam.
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