Starring: Hideko Takamine, Shûji Sano, Chishû Ryû
Director: Keisuke Kinoshita
Running Time: 86 mins
Carmen Comes Home is a Japanese film about a Tokyo stripper who returns to her rural hometown, and causes a stir when her family and the locals learn of her profession.
Although this isn’t what I’d call a riotously funny comedy, and its brand of humour has aged somewhat since 1951, it’s a pleasant and vibrant film from start to finish. As Japan’s first ever colour production, it excels in using the medium to add life to proceedings, and with a lively central performance from Hideko Takamine, it’s a pretty enjoyable watch in the end anyway.
I think the main thing to talk about here is the colour itself. A good decade after Hollywood had become well-versed in the use of colour film, it’s great to see how that managed to translate across the world into different movie industries, and with the influx of US influence after the Second World War, Japan is no different.
What’s more is that this isn’t a film that’s just there for the sake of being a colour movie, and the spectacle that would have gone along with it at the time, but rather a story that fits well with the use of colour, and is still engaging enough on its own.
Contrasting the tranquil and calm nature of a small rural town with two big personalities returning from the big city, Carmen Comes Home expertly uses costumes and colour cinematography to achieve the desired effect, with the strippers’ flamboyant outfits taking centre stage amongst the duller brown of the village’s surroundings and people, something that definitely couldn’t have happened in black-and-white.
What adds more to the big personalities of the strippers are the performances, particularly that of Hideko Takamine. Although her character is a former resident of the town, and as such still has an emotional connection to it, her loud and flamboyant performance shows her character’s clash brilliantly with the calmer townspeople, which leads to all sorts of controversy upon her return.
And yet, she’s not an irritating and unlikable presence. In comparison to her brattier friend who also travels with her from Tokyo, Takamine shows a much greater degree of desire to make up with her father and the other residents of the town who are ashamed of her work. The conflict between her belief that what she does is art, and what the rural people think is anything but, allows her character to be fleshed out a little more, and you’re able to get a good sense of her emotional connection to the town, something that makes her character more understandable and likable.
When it comes to issues, however, I have to say that this isn’t the funniest film you’ll ever see. Its story is engaging enough, but it does occasionally lack that extra level of energy to make it a properly entertaining film, particularly given that it’s billed as a comedy. Yes, the humour is pretty dated now, but even so, I only really found myself laughing once, and felt that the story would have been handled better if it allowed for a little more dramatic insight while retaining the upbeat and vibrant atmosphere.
On the whole, Carmen Comes Home is an interesting film. A history maker in Japan as the first colour movie, and one that utilises the technique very effectively. It also features a strong central performance from Hideko Takamine, but it’s never quite as funny and entertaining as it wants to be, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.1 overall.