Monday, August 10, 2020

Obscure and fabulous movie poster

Last night I started watching Yasujirō Ozu's Floating Weeds (1959). I haven't made it to the end yet, because I got very sleepy halfway through (not the movie's fault). But it did send me down an internet rabbit hole that led me to the movie poster above, which has almost nothing to do with Floating Weeds.

Umi no koto is a 1966 Japanese film directed by Tomotaka Tasaka, who was a victim of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima but recovered enough to continue making films until his death in 1974.

One of the English-language titles of the movie is Lake of Tears. And, as we can see above, the Spanish-language title was Lagrimas en el Lago. This beautiful psychedelic poster for that version was the work of Cuban artist Raúl Oliva in 1968.

In a 2014 article for Architectural Digest, Rebecca Bates reviewed the book Mira Cuba: The Cuban Poster Art from 1959. She writes:
"In one chapter, Mario Piazza, art director of interior design magazine Abitare, explicitly traces the parallels between American graphic design’s dreamy new aesthetic and that of Cuba’s new generation of artists. A poster by Bonnie MacLean for a 1967 concert at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, for example, is shown next to a cinema poster designed by Havana artist Raúl Oliva for a Japanese film that opened in Cuba in ’68. Oliva’s nod to the American hippie movement is evident. Both images present a phantasmagoric scene: The ad copy is stretched and distorted in bubble letters, and the posters are both overpowered by women’s swirling hair and clothing."
That made this is a worthwhile rabbit hole on two counts: (1) I also was reminded of Bonnie MacLean when I saw Oliva's gorgeous poster, and (2) I have a big post about MacLean in the works. So consider this a sneak preview for the MacLean post, via Japanese film and Cuban art.

And what about Umi no koto/Lake of Tears/Lagrimas en el Lago? I can't find much about the movie. Some additional alternate titles include A Blighted Love at the Lake and The Harp of the Lake. BFI provides this synopsis: "When a young girl's lover is drafted into the army, she is persuaded by an older man, a famous 'samisen' master, to return to Kyoto with him. He eventually seduces her, and in her despair she returns to her village and drowns herself." And Filmaffinity adds some different detail in its synopsis: "Beautiful Saku moves to Lake Yogo to work as a shamisen string maker. There she meets and falls for Ukichi, a young and naive co-worker. But her peaceful life is turned upside down when a master musician takes personal interest in her."

Cheery stuff. I think we should be thrilled that Oliva's Spanish-language poster survives, because it's difficult to imagine that many filmgoers saw such a relatively obscure and downbeat Japanese movie at cinemas in Cuba.

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