Some eighty miles North of Tokyo, standing resolutely at 8500 feet above her seashore, resides an impetuous titan of a volcano named Mt. Asama. On her verdant periphery are all the usual goings-on of a provincial mountain town: cattle being herded, children going to school and traditional folks employed in, well, traditional things. Growing up, Aoyama Kin lived a dutiful existence with her father and sister, which is not to say she didn’t harbor big city ambitions. In fact, we catch up with Kin at a more, shall we say…, fertile stage of her career, as she’s returning to her hometown on a sabbatical away from her Tokyo clientele. There, they know her as Lily Carmen, renowned burlesque dancer. Seductress. Intrigante. And that’s precisely how she’ll be known on this homecoming. Along with her exhibitionistic accomplice, she ruptures the community’s tranquility and their venerea – I mean – venerable aesthetic.
Keisuke Kinoshita’s Carmen Comes Home flits giddily through the corridors of Japan’s austere cultural consciousness. To consummate the film, Kinoshita projects a charming slideshow of the village’s humble, daily activities. With sketches ripped straight from the Sunday funny pages, whose depictions of bawdy broads and bovines is backed by a kind of whimsical Tom & Jerry musical variation, he immediately lets us know it’s time to drop our guard. Carmen’s arrival has a similar effect on the villagers: her disarming affectation of naiveté is so competently equipped, that her erotic ruckus is given a pass by everyone but her father. She’s treated not so much as a person as she is a presence – like the scene-stealing volcano, whose primordial fuming demands the reverent attention of her spectators, both in the film and by observers of Kinoshita’s panoramically composed frames. Her vibrant and impeccably adorned outfits paint floral strokes in our mind’s eye, while the camera spins in awe of the countryside. In Carmen, we have someone so charming as to be beyond reproach, set against a backdrop that’s so beautiful as to be sad.
- Carmen Comes Home (Kinoshita 1951) @ BAM/PFA #JapaneseDivas