12 March 2015

A Sign In Late Spring

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there was a time when I actually regarded Coca-Cola as an energy drink.  I'm sure some cyclists still do.  In fact, some might regard it as a performance-enhancing drug.

Like nearly every cyclist in the developed world, I've seen innumerable Coke ads on billboards, storefronts and even painted on the sides of buildings.  But I've never seen one quite like this:

It's a still from Late Spring (Banshu), a 1949 film directed by Yasujiro Ozu.  Based on Kazuo Hirotsu's novel Father and Daughter (Chichi to musume), it belongs to a genre of Japanese film called shomingeki, which deals with the ordinary daily lives of modern working- and middle-class Japanese people.  This genre flourished during the immediate postwar period, in spite (or, some say, because) of the heavy censorship imposed by Allied occupying forces.  
Such films usually focused on families, featured simple plots and were shot with static cameras.  This genre might be compared, in some ways, to the Italian neo-realist films of the same period (such as Rome, Open City and The Bicycle Thief) and the French New Wave that brought us the likes of Le Quatre Cent Coups (The 400 Blows) a decade later.

There's a certain irony to seeing a Coca-Cola road sign in a film that's supposed to--at least on the surface--celebrate an idealized version of Japanese family life.  Then again, some have seen it as one of the ways Ozu subverted the censorship of the time. 

Hmm...Coca-Cola presented as a threat to traditional authority in order to subvert the censorship imposed by an occupier.  It's a bit much to wrap my head around.  Maybe it's easier to think of Coke as an energy drink--or even a performance-enhancing drug!


  1. Makes an excellent toilet bowl cleaner, used like that there is no chance of it damaging your teeth.

  2. Coline--I've also heard that if you spill it on a car, it will take the paint off.