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Additional Thoughts on Tora-san, Our Lovable Tramp (It's Tough Being a Man)

My initial review of Tora-san was already a bit too bloated and unfocused for my standards, but I simply had to rectify my failure to mention the cameo appearance by my favorite Japanese actor: Takashi Shimura. [WARNING: 50-year-old SPOILERS below; proceed with caution.]

The wedding between Tora-san’s younger sister and the kindhearted factory worker next door is interrupted by the arrival of an unexpected guest: the father of the groom (played by Shimura), who disowned his son eight years ago and has made no effort to contact him since. Shimura pretty much personified “less is more,” and this role is no exception: his character spends most of the ceremony and reception sitting in sullen, stone-faced silence. Tora-san takes his cold, aloof demeanor as evidence that he only showed up to save face, and vows to give him a piece of his mind after he’s made his speech.

When the old man rises to speak, however, he offers not empty platitudes, but a tearful confession: he is genuinely ashamed of how he treated his son, and thanks everyone present—especially Tora-san—for taking care of him in his absence. Our hero begins to weep himself, for these words of gratitude represent the forgiveness he’s always desired from his own father, who died before they could reconcile.

I can’t think of many other slapstick comedies that feature such poignant moments of catharsis.

[Originally written October 13, 2019.]

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