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September 22, 2011

I Hate but Love

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Nikui Anchikusho/The Despicable Guy
Koreyoshi Kurahara - 1962
Eclipse Region 1 DVD

A good chunk of I Hate but Love is devoted to a road trip from Tokyo to Kyushu, a 900 mile drive. The film seems to periodically meander, lose direction, and regain some momentum, just like the main characters. The film is centered on a radio and television personality, Daisaku, and his manager, Noriko. The film is something of an examination of the meaning of love and celebrity, with two of Japan's biggest movie stars of the time, Yujiro Ishihara and Ruriko Asaoka.

Visually, it veers between Korehara's freewheeling shots with the camera spinning on its axis, or lots of hand held, documentary style shots on the streets of Tokyo, Osaka and other points, with scenes composed of shots where the camera never moves. Part of the story is about Daisaku driving an old jeep to Kyushu on behalf of a young woman who's maintained a platonic love affair with a young doctor in a remote village, their relationship fueled by their exchange of letters. There is discussion as to whether Daisaku is driving the jeep as a publicity stunt or as a humanistic gesture. There are several scenes of crowds on the street gathering in front of Daisaku and the jeep, but they could well have been in actuality shots of fans gathering to catch a glimpse of Ishihara. Had an American producer seen this film when it was released, I'm sure he would have had the idea to do a remake starring Elvis Presley.

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According to Mark Schiling, in his book on Nikkatsu films from the late Fifties and early Sixties, the original English language title was "That Despicable Guy". I'm not sure if despicable is quite the right word to describe Daisaku, but I like that title better. From the opening scenes, it is evident that Daisaku is tiring of the demands of his schedule of radio banter, talk show appearances, and late night appearances at night clubs. All the guy wants to do is sleep. Noriko has Daisaku's every day, and virtually every hour planned out in advance. Adding to their tension of the business relationship is their personal relationship where love is kept at a distance, both fearful of how it could affect their careers. When Daisaku takes off to drive the jeep, Noriko sees the professional commitments coming apart, threatening the careers of both of them.

Ishihara, also popular as a singer, is given a couple of opportunities to sing, both on and off the camera. I am assuming here that Korehara was permitted some freedom as a filmmaker, with such signature motifs as shots directly of the sun, and some rain drenched moments. But the film mostly was designed to serve as a vehicle for the two very popular stars. What may be amusing to contemporary audiences, that may have caused young Japanese girls and boys to swoon when the film came out, are the several scenes of the Ishihara and Asaoka in their underwear. Ishihara has a couple scenes wearing nothing but his tighty whities. Asaoka is seen in her white bra and granny panties, at one point admiring herself in a full length mirror. Aside from the display of celebrity skin, the film indirectly expresses Ishihara own evolution from studio contract player to independent star.

The film is also something of an odd choice in the Kurahara series. Not having seen Kurahara's other Nikkatsu film but relying on descriptions as well as the trailer, I would have preferred Glass Johnny: Look like a Beast. Having seen I Love but Hate, I would also like to see the previous film Kurahara made with Ishikawa and Asaoka, Ginza Love Story. Of possible interest to some might be the Toshiro Mifune vehicle, Incident at Blood Pass with Ishikawa and Asaoka in supporting roles, filmed eight years later. By this time, Yasujiro Ishikawa's alcoholism had physically taken a toll on the former teen idol, his puffy features almost making him initially unrecognizable, and saddening when Mifune refers to him as the "young fellow".

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Posted by peter at September 22, 2011 06:08 AM

Comments

So am I right in assuming you're not so hot on this film? I'm interested in anything Ishikawa's in -- I've enjoyed his performances in Crazed Fruit, I Am Waiting, Tenchu, Incident at Blood Pass and Alone Across the Pacific. However, if this is a meandering snoozer, perhaps I'll pass ... ?

Posted by: Patrick Galloway at September 24, 2011 02:30 PM

I wouldn't call the film a "snoozer". The film has its moments, but is less interesting than some films covering similar territory such as Sullivan's Travels or Kurosawa's Scandal. If you haven't seen the Criterion films available as streaming only on Hulu, there are some more Nikkatsu films by Masuda and Inoue, among others.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at September 25, 2011 09:48 AM