The Wind-of-Youth Group Crosses the Mountain Pass, Tôge o wataru wakai kaze (1961)
Directed by: Seijun Suzuki
Written by: Ichirô Ikeda, Niisan Takahashi, Yoshihiko Morimoto
Starring: Kôji Wada, Mayumi Shimizu, Nobuo Kaneko
THE WIND-OF-YOUTH GROUP CROSSES THE MOUNTAIN PASS (1961)
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
A university student hitches a ride with a struggling travelling magic troupe and decides to help in any way he can to turn their fortune around.
The second film in the Seijun Suzuki The Early Years Vol 1 collection, THE WIND-OF-YOUTH GROUP CROSSES THE MOUNTAIN PASS, continues with its focus on youngsters with this heartwarming tale of a magic/circus troupe who have fallen on hard times and need to make their business a success or risk the job of all those involved; people with a certain skill set who will probably struggle to find work outside of the circus show.
Shintaro Funaki is the bright-eyed student who meets Kinyo Imai’s magic troupe on the way to the Suwa Shrine festival at Sakagi. Planning to do a bit of travelling whilst a student, he plans to sell a batch of underwear he received off his boss who was unable to pay him except in merchandise. Being an inexperienced salesman, Shintaro catches the eye of Ken-san, a traveller who too seeks cash and is willing to hawk Shintaro’s lingerie in exchange for a cut of the profits. Shintaro’s affable personality also gets him an invite to travel with the Senba Yakuza clan who visit the various festivals around Japan hawking their wares. Having befriended the Yakuza and the circus troupe, bubbly Shintaro becomes an integral part of the storyline, particularly for Kinyo Imai’s magic show.
Having travelled throughout Japan, Kinyo Imai, his family and group of performers have always entertained paying customers with their magic act, strongman act and comedy act but it appears that more recently all the punters are bothered about is their striptease act, Akemi. Beautiful and curvy, Akemi is the word on every man’s lips to each town they visit and when crippled businessman Akita lays his eyes on her, he convinces her to stay at his club and leave the troupe. Without their biggest asset, the circus troupe are met with hostility and reduced payment from prior bookings and with a threat to future bookings, they’re forced to do a deal that could threaten the very future of Kinyo’s daughter, Misako, should they fail.
THE WIND-OF-YOUTH GROUP CROSSES THE MOUNTAIN PASS is an energetic, youthful exploration on attempting to overcome obstacles in life. With Shintaro as the outsider in all of this, he’s able to intervene and help his new friends. It’s never easy but Shintaro’s dazzling optimism makes him a force of a character that not even the Yakuza can disagree with. The struggling tale of the magic troupe is one we all can relate to and their quest to succeed provides the momentum that carries the film with plenty of humour, fun and a hint of sadness along the way. Like all good Yakuza films, there’s a few punch ups that provide scenes of excitement but the Yakuza play only a minor part in this particular film.
Colourful and chock full of charm with a story that takes viewers on a wonderful trip through a variety of settings, THE WIND-OF-YOUTH GROUP CROSSES THE MOUNTAIN PASS is an endearing tale that really restores faith in teamwork and hard graft.
The film is available as part of the Seijun Suzuki The Early Years Vol 1 collection.