a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

The Great Passage / Fune wo amu / 舟を編む

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Fune_wo_Amu-p1When it comes to movies about the heroics of editing dictionaries, Howard Hawks’ brilliant 1941 comedy, Ball of Fire, is the ur-text. Any other attempt to mine the same subject matter must be measured against it – and will most likely fail. Maybe that’s why no one has attempted over the last 70 years. That is until now. Yuya Ishii, who has made some creditable (and some execrable) films in his short career, manages to pump out a long (2 hours plus) slog of a pedestrian epic with Fune wo amu. Ishii gives pretty-faced, but talentless, non-actor Ryuhei Matsuda a bit of something to dig into in the role of nerd-savant-becomes-hero, Majime. Matsuda ain’t no Gary Cooper. In the Barbara Stanwyck role is Kaguya Hayashi as love interest Kaguya. Lest you’re led to believe this is a comedy, it ain’t. Fune wo amu trods through the worst of Japanese cine-dramatic tropes – mendacious heroism, ganbaremasu-ism (for lack of a better term) and unrepentant schmaltz (which takes up a good portion of the last hour of the film).

Originally published in EL Magazine, April 2012


Written by Nicholas Vroman

April 9, 2013 at 11:26 am

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