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Film / Passing Fancy

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Passing Fancy is a 1933 film directed by Yasujiro Ozu.

Kihachi is an illiterate laborer, a single father who lives in Tokyo with his 8-year-old son, Tomio. Kihachi works at a brewery along with his buddy, Jiro. One day while leaving a dramatic reading they run into a pretty young woman named Harue. Harue apparently is homeless (no explanation why), and Kihachi, who is instantly smitten, decides to help her. He gets her a place to stay with Otome, his friend who owns the local bar.

Otome soon begins to act maternally towards her young guest. Meanwhile, Kihachi makes romantic overtures to Harue, but is disappointed to find out that she prefers taller, handsomer Jiro. That plot thread is short-circuited however when Kihachi gets some bad news about his son.


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Tropes:

  • Call-Back: Kihachi, missing his son, tells both of Tomio's kiddie jokes to the other passengers on the ferry.
    "Why is seawater salty? Because of all the salted salmon!"
    "Why do we have five fingers? Because if we had four, a glove would have one too many!"
  • The Cameo: Chishu Ryu, who was in almost every Ozu movie and starred in most of them, is seen briefly as a passenger on the ferry boat in the last scene.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Poor Kihachi is heartbroken when Harue friendzones him and expresses a preference for Jiro.
  • The Ditz: Kihachi is kind-hearted and he means well but he isn't very bright. When the ferry boat passes by some land he asks if it's America. Later he says "does this piece of land connect to Tokyo?" When Tomio gets sick with enteritis Kihachi gives him sake which exacerbates his symptoms.
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  • Drowning My Sorrows: Kihachi gets his drunk on after Harue spurns his affections. We see him drinking sake out of a little bottle, then we see a whole bunch of other little bottles scattered around his tray.
  • A Friend in Need: Everybody rallies to Kihachi's support after he can't pay the doctor's bill. The barber lends him the money. Harue offers to pay the bill. Jiro decides to go off and work in Hokkaido to pay it off. Otome agrees to look after Tomio when Kihachi says he'll go to Hokkaido instead.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: It's Kihachi, actually, that says this about Otome: "I'll bet you were a real looker once." When she asks him about now, he demurs, saying he can't be honest because "I owe you money."
  • Just Friends: Kihachi is heartbroken when Harue says she thinks of him like an uncle, and prefers the younger, taller, and handsomer Jiro.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The other kids at Tomio's school make fun of him for having a shiftless illiterate dummy for a dad. They're right, but it's still mean.
  • Ma'am Shock: Kihachi is not happy when Harue calls him "uncle". Sure enough, it's a sign that she isn't interested in him romantically.
  • Out of Focus: It seems like the main story will be Kihachi and Jiro's Love Triangle with Harue, but that thread is basically abandoned when the film shifts to Kihachi's relationship with his son. One brief scene indicates that Jiro has accepted Harue's affections.
  • Silence Is Golden: A silent film. Although the first talkie in Japan was made in 1930, studios were still putting out silent films in large numbers late in the decade.
  • Slice of Life: A portrait of a lower-class single father looking for love and trying to take care of his son.
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