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Film / Farewell to Spring

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"That's what happens to friendship. It's like a spring cloud. It fades away."
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Farewell to Spring is a 1959 film from Japan directed by Keisuke Kinoshita.

The story revolves around five young men who were school friends. Two of them happen to be visiting their hometown in Aizu after quite some time away. They find that time and pressure have weakened their bonds of friendship. The young men all have various issues and problems:

  • Teshirogi is a young worker playing at being a radical (he's been participating in a strike). He's from a formerly upper-class but now impoverished family.
  • Masugi is handicapped, with a leg that was made lame in an accident. He works at home, helping his family paint enamelware and crockery, but the business isn't going very well.
  • Makita Yasuo is a bartender at his father's bar. He's in love with Yoko, a local girl. Unfortunately Yasuo's stepmother, who also happens to be Yoko's aunt and guardian, can't stand him. She's promised Yoko in marriage to Teshirogi.
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  • Takuya Miramura's family runs an inn, which also isn't doing all that well.
  • Iwagaki is a student, who has come home because his rich patron kicked him out for having an affair with the rich patron's maid.

There's also a subplot with Yasuo's uncle, who at some point in the backstory ran off with Midori, a geisha/prostitute. As the film opens Midori and the uncle are already broken up, Midori back to working as a geisha, the uncle dying of tuberculosis.


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Tropes:

  • All There in the Manual: Someone who isn't acquainted with Japanese history might be lost with all the references to the "White Tigers" and the 19 teenaged boys who committed suicide. It's all referencing the White Tiger Force of the Boshin War, part of the Meiji Restoration. The White Tiger Force consisted of 300 young samurai from Aizu. 19 of them committed suicide after incorrectly thinking that the local citadel, Tsuruga Castle, had fallen and a battle had been lost. The five young men visit the memorial. The "sword dance" seen repeatedly in the movie commemorates the suicide of the 19 boys.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Farewell to Spring has been called Japan's "first gay movie". That might be overstating the case but the character of Masugi seems to be coded as a homosexual. He is the most sensitive one, he's the one that is most determined to keep the gang together, and he's the only one that is never suggested to have a romantic relationship. In one scene Teshirogi mocks Iwagaki, only for Masugi to come to his defense. Teshirogi then says with a knowing smirk, "Masugi always had such strong feelings for Iwagaki."
    • There's also the first meeting between Iwagaki and Takuya upon the former's arrival in town. Takuya takes his hand and says, emotionally, "I've missed you." Then they take a bath together in the hotel spa.
  • Bathtub Scene: Part of the Ambiguously Gay content in this movie involves Iwagaki and Takuya taking a bath together.
  • Con Man: It turns out that Iwagaki's whole story is a fabrication. He's a con man who has only come to Aizu because he's fleeing a charge for fraud.
  • Driven to Suicide: Midori and Yasuo's uncle, the Star-Crossed Lovers, commit double suicide.
  • Flashback: Masugi gets the others to re-enact the ceremonial "White Tiger" sword dance that they did at their graduation. This sequences has several rapid cuts between the five youths re-enacting the sword dance, flashbacks to the original sword dance (with a lot more participants, everyone in ceremonial garb), and other inserts showing what each of the five characters are now doing in their daily lives.
  • Geisha: The five young men hire three geisha to sing and dance at a party.
  • High-Class Call Girl: Dialogue makes clear that at least some of the local geisha are actually this, or moonlight as this. Midori was one, even though she insists that she wasn't, saying "I'm not one of those geishas." Apparently the local geishas are struggling after a "Prostitution Ban" was passed, as is Takuya's inn, which operated as a No-Tell Motel but now has less business.
  • Lady Drunk: Midori is bitter and disappointed about the outcome of Yasuo's uncle; she shows up drunk for their party.
  • Love Triangle: Yoko is in love with Yasuo but she's been promised in Arranged Marriage to Teshirogi.
  • Wicked Stepmother: A realistic example in the case of Yasuo's stepmother, who can't stand him because he was the product of an affair his father had. She goes so far as to attempt to marry her niece Yoko off to Teshirogi so he will inherit the family bar instead of Yasuo.
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