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Film / Bean Cake

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Bean Cake is a 2001 short film (12 minutes) directed by David Greenspan.

Despite being an American production shot in Los Angeles (Greenspan was a USC film student), the film is entirely in Japanese. The date is 1933. Taro, a boy from the country, has moved with his mom to Tokyo. He reports to school but his uniform isn't ready yet so he has to walk into his fourth grade class wearing his traditional kimono. All the other kids laugh, except for a pretty girl named Mihara who is sympathetic.

That isn't his biggest problem, however. His teacher asks young Taro what is the most important thing in his life. He's supposed to answer that it's duty to the emperor, but instead Taro answers honestly and says that the most important thing in his life is the yummy bean cakes that his mother makes. This gets him in a lot of trouble.

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  • Day of the Jackboot: A subtle theme. The film is about the Japanese school system stamping out individuality in its students and indoctrinating them into servants of the Emperor, in a time where Japan was becoming increasingly militaristic and fascistic. (This was a deliberate choice by Greenspan, as the original short story "The Red Bridal" was published in 1894.)
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The film is shot in black and white, giving it a Retraux effect that resembles Japanese films of the era.
  • Here We Go Again!: Taro finally knuckles under to his teacher, mostly because he likes pretty Mihara and wants to stay in class with her. At the end he serves her his mom's bean cakes. Mihara, who knows all about Taro's contest of wills with his teacher, snarkily says "Which do you like better, your mom's bean cakes or me?" He hesitates, and the movie ends.
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  • New Transfer Student: Taro has a rough first day in his new 4th grade class.
  • Standing in the Hall: A variation. Taro is send out to stand in the hall as punishment, but without the buckets. When the teacher catches him sitting down, he again doesn't get the buckets, but tells Taro to sit "Japanese style" (kneeling and sitting on your haunches), which is much more uncomfortable.
  • Title Drop: Taro loves bean cake, and says so.
  • Transfer Student Uniforms: Transfer student lack of a uniform. Taro's mom tells him that his uniform won't be ready until tomorrow, so he has to go to school in his kimono. All the kids in uniforms (except for Mihara) point and laugh, and one calls him a "bumpkin".

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