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"Gegege no Nyobo" (Gegege's Wife)(Directed by Takuji Suzuki, 2010)

Gazing at a destitute life as if observing a beloved creature

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

It seems to be a simple movie. It carefully depicts the destitute life of Shigeru Mizuki when he was a rental book manga artist and couldn't sell his work, through the eyes of his wife, Nunoe. In silent scenes with no background music, Shigeru Mizuki, played by Kankuro Kudo, with his unique posture where he seems to lean to the left, creates crisp sounds while drawing his pictures, Nunoe, played by Kazue Fukiishi, finely chops weeds taken from around the neighborhood and puts them in a pot, screws in a broken wall clock squeak two or three times as they get wound in, and he fidgets as he puts on two pairs of socks because it is cold (we get to see a close up of his bare feet.) These scenes make the viewers feel as if they are continuously gazing as if it is an ecological observation of a living creature (It reminds us that Takuji Suzuki's previous work was "I am a Cat Stalker," a movie about observing the life of a street cat.)

There is no depiction of dramatic events taking place or moving episodes enhanced with emotional music. The Mizuki's, while dealing with small conflicts and the pain of not being able to make a living simply, continue their unconcerned and modest lives. But, by straining your ears while observing this harmless passing of time coupled with the lives of those people, you begin to feel it is a valuable experience which is precious and dear. That is the beauty of this film.

However, for sure, there are times when ghosts and fireballs appear, and cartoon drawings come to life to startle us. But the appearance of ghosts and recollections of Mizuki's wartime experiences in the form of animation doesn't shake the film emotionally in a large way. Even the ghosts in the fields and riverside only have a subdued existence like a stray cat and do no evil to humans. Therefore, to us viewers, we don't expect any over the top drama or music, and as viewers, it seems as if we are being encouraged to just observe modestly.

So this movie has completely turned its back on the excessively consumer-centered modern society and modern cinema, and could possibly be said to be an anti-present film. We are reminded of that in the movie when Mizuki is told that his rental manga are too dark for those days. In a sense, this film has been produced as a dark, minor film, like a "rental book movie?" But, coincidentally at the same time, a hit drama of the same name was aired on NHK, and, as if it was made in anticipation of the ensuing boom, this film is slipping, like a ghost, into movie line-ups at cinema complexes.

This, as a movie-goer, can be said to be a very lucky thing. So we must modestly observe this film at a local cinema complex as an extension of our everyday lives. Actually, I did that, but the elderly couple next to me, who came to see it as a major production, laughed enjoyably when Mizuki let out a fart and when the ghosts appeared. To me, this was a totally joyful movie-watching experience which hasn't happened of late.

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Graduated from School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University, and dropped out of Osaka University Graduate School of Human Sciences. Entered current position after working as an assistant professor at Chiba University.
Majors in visual culture and communication.
Major publications include “Cinema and Technological Experience”(seikyuusya), “Secrets and Pleasure of the Screen”(ibunsha), “Sociological Communication”(co-authored, Yuhikaku), and “It's TV! Everyone Gather Around”(co-authored, Seikyusha).