Directed by Kihachi Okamoto
Produced by Masakatsu Kaneko and Sanezumi Fujimoto
Written by Toshirô Ide and Hitomi Yamaguchi
Cast: Keiju Kobayashi, Michiyo Aratama, Tatsuyoshi Ehara, Hiroshi Tachikawa, Akihiko Hirata, Eijirô Tôno and Yuriko Hanabusa
A meek office worker earns the interest of the public when his drunk ramblings are published in a magazine.
To call The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman Kihachi Okamoto’s ”Forest Gump” might be overkill, but that statement sort of gets to the what the film is in a digestible way easily. The life of an Everyman caught in the tides of history. However, unlike Forest Gump, Eburi doesn’t change history willy nilly. Instead, history decides the path that Eburi’s life will take. And, Eburi doesn’t retell his life with a child-like curiosity like Forest, but opts to tell his story with a certain whimsical poignancy.
Eburi, whose actor looks a bit too old to be 36 by the way. I doubt it was a coincidence that the name Eburi sounds vaguely similar to the English word: ”Everyman”. It’s a faint similarity, but Eburi isn’t a common Japanese name. So, it can be likely that name was chosen because it sounds similar to ”Everyman”. And, that’s what Eburi is an Everyman. He is unremarkable in most ways, yet, Eburi being so unremarkable is what makes him special. Eburi despite being totally average stands apart from his peers from his ability to be a great storyteller. Erubi through his ability to story-tell transforms his rather mundane life into something spectacular. Erubi is like the silent majority of Japan in an odd way. People like Erubi exist all around us, but we usually pay them little attention. Moreover, Erubi is a simple man whose the silent conscience for the Japanese nation.
The saga of Erubi’s life encapsulates more than just the Japanese history of the period. However, at first, the story starts rather innocently as Erubi just recounts things in humorous detail. The manner in which Erubi tells his tale is interesting. The style is him writing his past experiences in the form of a novel. It does make his embellishment subject to suspicion, but we can buy Erubi’s validity from his passion. Erubi’s remarks ring with a load of insightfulness, even if the subject of Erubi’s remarks is a serious thing or humorous one.
The humor doesn’t exist just for entertainment value, though the humor is funny. Humorous moments that are made greater by the great creativity displayed. Such as the random inclusion of animated skits that embody the fun spirit of the movie. There is an even a short glimpse of stop motion thrown in for good measure! Kihachi Okamoto’s dynamic film making is out in full force here. I wouldn’t be shocked if The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman is Kihachi Okamoto’s most humorous work. All of the jump cuts, smash cuts,
and freeze-frames happen just at the right moment to inject a fun surrealism. A form of surrealism that’s a natural fit for the satirical tone. Erubi’s narrations contain the right amount of snide for effective satire. However, luckily, Erubi’s sincerity keeps the satire from becoming overbearingly cynical. Without Erubi, the film would lose its heart.
For a movie built on the ramblings of a single man. The conclusion here is rather appropriate. It is the watershed moment where all of the narrative focus comes ahead. Erubi wins the approval of his colleagues, and maybe, even the world. Erubi’s ramblings is the tool used to satirize everything ends up becoming satirized itself as Erubi rambles on to on end ad nauseam. He rambles to the point that it doesn’t only annoys those around him, but even we as the audience started to get irritated as well. It’s quite uncomfortable to watch, though done probably intentionally. Erubi’s never-ending soap box saga is a deliberate send off that touches the root of all Erubi’s ramblings. The ugly truth about Japan’s militarism is explored in Erubi’s personal history. Erubi comes to terms that his family had actually profited from the war. Erubi lashes out against those he saw he sees as the corrupter of youth. It’s best summed up with these words:
‘‘I won’t forgive the grey-haired old men who seduced the young men with beautiful words.Half the young men at Jingu Stadium died. Without knowing TV and stereos, they died.”
It gets at the message of The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman in a poignant manner that underlies all of the amusement.
The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman isn’t a sweeping historical epic like Forest Gump. Kihachi Okamoto’s feature isn’t concerned about getting caught up in iconic moments of history. The look into the more mundane aspects of life creates a more tantalizing experience. It is heartfelt while being satirical. The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman is the rare comedy that’s both intellectual and engrossingly whimsical in its execution.
PS: The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman has two short roles from two actors who had a big supporting roles in Ultraman: Masanari Nihei and Hiroko Sakurai.