Walk Cheerfully ★★★★

Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963) may not be as familiar to Western audiences as fellow Japanese directors Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, or Masaki Kobayashi, but he was very popular in his native land. He is sometimes considered to be the most Japanese of film makers. His mature works include such titles as Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (1952), Early Spring (1956), Floating Weeds (1959), and An Autumn Afternoon (1962). Some viewers find his later films to be slow and undramatic, focused frequently on the everyday lives of middle-class Japanese families.

Ozu’s first directorial credit was in 1928, and he shot over thirty silent films; his first talkie was not made until 1936! The silent Walk Cheerfully (1930) was his tenth feature. One could call it a gangster picture since it does concern a group of underworld characters, but if one is looking for violent mobsters like Enrico Bandello (Little Caesar, 1931), Tom Powers (Public Enemy, 1931), or Tony Camonte (Scarface, 1932), disappointment awaits. Ozu’s small time crooks eschew strong arm stuff, for the most part. We even see a group of them doing some synchronized dance steps, one of the weirder sequences ever seen in a crime movie!

The protagonist of Walk Cheerfully, who is known as Ken the Knife, and his sidekick, Sento, are essentially nice guys who have gone wrong. When Ken meets and falls for nice girl Yasue, he decides to go straight. Both Ken and Sento end up with steady jobs and are able to leave their lives of crime.