In the dystopian world of Sidney Lumet's Network (1976), the death of the once-popular TV personality in front of camera is considered to be the best way to preserve corporate integrity in the face of fierce competition. The price of 'virtual' persona sometimes exceeds the price of person's physical life itself. The idea of a life insurance company exploiting a sensational image of death for marketing their products sounds very promising, but Yoshishige Yoshida's Chi Wa Kawaiteru (血は渇いてる, 1960) abandons the credibility and nuances in exchange for visual impact.
The story revolves around a business man (Keiji Sata), who tried to commit suicide to protest massive layoffs in his company. He was not a strong-will person and he just wanted the world to know what he thought as unjust. This act caught the attention of mass media, and eventually advertising agency. A young agent from the influential advertising firm decided to exploit this media hype for marketing ... life insurance. However, the world was full of dishonest crooks and despicable rogues. This meek man of failed self-sacrifice has less wits than a twelve-year old and even less will-power. He was used and used and used, until ... you know, he had to do it again.
The film was released as a bottom half of a double bill with Nagisa Ohsima's Night and Fog in Japan (日本の夜と霧, 1960). The politically-motivated Ohsima's film drew both criticism and praise. Then, three days after the premiere, the shock wave trembled through Japan. The Japan Socialist Party leader, Inejiro Asanuma, was assassinated by a young assailant while he was on the stage delivering a speech. The moment of the assault was captured on TV, and aired over and over. Under this turbulent moment in the political arena, Shochiku considered the Oshima's film 'inappropriate', and pull the entire program abruptly. So, Yoshida's film went under with it.
Because of this unfortunate event and infamous Ohshima's film, Yoshida's film drew little attention. The film is quite unique among Yoshida's works. It is sensationalistic and melodramatic. Many of the actors simply over-react. Their characters are not only uninteresting, but simply annoying. The scripts are overloaded with cliche, and they are delivered with even less finesse. Only striking thing about the film is its starking visuals. Especially the image of a man holding a pistol to his head. What I suspect is that maybe Yoshida was too obsessed with this image and made the whole film around it. When the huge advertisement panel of this image is taken down from the company building, the image itself is awesome. However, it doesn't have much substance in it. Strangely, the whole film seems like the advertisement of sensationalism.
Chi Wa Kawaiteru (血は渇いてる, 1960)
Produced by Takeshi Sasaki
Written and Directed by Yoshishige Yoshida
Starring Keiji Sata, Kaneko Iwasaki, Shinichiro Mikami
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Cinematography by Toichiro Narushima