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Film / Spring Dreams

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Spring Dreams is a 1960 film from Japan, written and directed by Keisuke Kinoshita.

It is a story about a goofy dysfunctional family. The Okudairas are a very rich family; they own a pharmaceutical company. Their chief product is a hair growth tonic that doesn't work. Mr. Okudaira is loud-mouthed and thoughtless and mean, and saved from villainy only by his complete ineffectualness. The real power in the family is "Grandma", his 70-year-old mother-in-law, who is disgusted by her bumbling idiot of a son-in-law and is desperately trying to hold the family business together. Said business is currently being threatened by a strike among the laborers in the factory.

Mr. Okudaira's three children each pose their own problems. The only son, Mamoru, is a hopeless twit stuck in an arrested childhood, who wears only short pants, and who when he's hungry can think of nothing more than wandering around the mansion barking out the names of the servants. Tamiko, the older sister, has basically checked out of the screwed-up family dynamics, but only by sleeping with younger men all over town. The mega-slutty Tamiko's unsuitability as a marriage candidate leaves the burden of carrying on the family business to the younger daughter, Chizuko. However she refuses to entertain any of Grandma's marriage candidates, because she's in love with a painter, Mr. Ema. That won't do, in Grandma's opinion, because Mr. Ema is wholly unsuited to run the family business. (This being patriarchal 1960 Japan, the possibility of either of the daughters running the business is not entertained.)


Also in the household are two secretaries. Yasugi, Mr. Okudaira's secretary/assistant, gradually grows to resent her boss's bullying. On the other hand, Grandma's caretaker Miss Yae is utterly loyal to her mistress and cold-as-ice to everyone else.

Into this chaotic dynamic comes Mr. Atsumi, played by Chishu Ryu (best remembered for being in almost every movie Yasujiro Ozu ever made). Mr. Atsumi, a genial, elderly man who ekes out a living pulling a sweet potato cart, collapses in the Okudaira parlor after suffering a mild stroke. Dr. Hanamura, the Okudaira family physician, declares that Mr. Atsumi shouldn't be moved for a week. So the family puts a pillow under his head and a blanket over him right there on the floor. His very presence throws another wrench into the unstable family.

Spring Dreams was loosely inspired by a French farce, Boudu Saved from Drowning, which was more faithfully remade as American film Down and Out in Beverly Hills.



  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Miss Yae shocks everyone when she tearfully tells them about her one-night-stand with Mr. Okudaira years ago, then says she's loved him ever since.
  • College Widow: Tamiko specializes in seducing young university students.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Not one of the Okudairas has their act together. The father's a blustering oaf, the son is a nitwit, one daughter beds college students by the dozen, and the other is constantly dissolving into tears.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Mamoru walks into the foyer wearing short pants—he is way too old to be walking around in short pants—and announces that he is worried about "whether human existence is a virtue or a vice." He's established as an idiot.
  • Ethical Slut: "There are 10, 20, 50 men I spread my love to," says Tamiko. This works in that it gets her out of Grandma's matchmaking, but it backfires when a tabloid journalist threatens to write a nasty story about her.
  • Foreshadowing: Grandma is seen in bed reading Romeo and Juliet, about a pair of Star-Crossed Lovers.
  • Grande Dame: Grandma, the family matriarch, the only one in the family who isn't an idiot, very concerned with the family's social standing and the maintenance of the family business.
  • Hidden Depths: Miss Yae comes across as Grandma's steely, no nonsense enforcer, all business. That is, until the scene near the end where Mr. Okudaira tells his children that he never remarried and never had a mistress since his wife died. Miss Yae bursts into the room, dissolves in tears, admits to everyone else about the fling she had with Mr. Okudaira a decade ago, and says she's loved him for years.
  • Jerkass: Mr. Okudaira is mean and short-tempered, he belittles his secretary, and he yells a lot. Although one does start to feel a little bit sorry for him when he goes on a rant about what nincompoops his children are.
  • No Name Given: The grandmother, who as it turns out is the central character in the film, is never named.
  • Old Maid: Part of Mr. Okudaira's jerkassery involves calling Yasugi an "old maid" and "spinster" because she's unmarried at the ripe old age of 30.
  • The One That Got Away: Grandma is pushing Chizuko to marry a suitable candidate to run the business, partly because Grandma herself entered into just such a loveless Arranged Marriage in her youth for the sake of the family, casting aside the man she really loved. It's not hard to guess what's going to happen when she's told about the old man lying in the parlor, and recognizes the name "Atsumi."
  • Screwball Comedy: A rather unusual Japanese version with a Dysfunctional Family and lots of silly people running around and everyone falling in love. It's reminiscent of My Man Godfrey.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: It seems like a more or less upbeat, silly ending. Miss Yasugi has gotten paired off with the doctor. Chizuko has gotten paired off with Mr. Ema after all. Tamiko will avoid social humiliation. Miss Yae is left chasing after Mr. Okudaira. And while Grandma couldn't bring herself to tell Mr. Atsumi who she is, at least she got to see him again after fifty years and get closure. Then at the end Tamiko looks into Grandma's room and sees what is the very last shot of the movie: Grandma collapsed in death on the floor of her bedroom, her copy of Romeo and Juliet lying on the carpet next to her.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Mamoru, who spends all his time pondering deep questions about the nature of human existence but apparently is unable to feed himself. At the end he decides to go out and join the strikers that are besieging the mansion. They're waving the red flags of communism, so he charges out with a Japanese national flag "because it has red in it." He's last seen being beaten up.
  • Uptown Girl: Chizuko the rich girl is desperately in love with Mr. Ema the Starving Artist. Grandma is firmly opposed to Ema as a suitor, despite how she was once such an Uptown Girl 50 years ago.
  • Yakuza: Mr. Okudaira hires some as security to protect the family from the strikers. Somehow they manage to set fire to the garage.

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