His studio bosses wanted a heartwarming domestic drama, but writer-director Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses) turned this 1959 debut feature into a pointed critique of the economic inequality then roiling postwar Japan. A teenage boy, living with his frail mother and young sister in a riverside slum, puts food on the table by selling the same homing pigeon on the street over and over. A well-meaning teacher and a girl from a wealthy family each try to help him break out of the cycle of poverty, but like the pigeon, he's not going anywhere. Oshima rejected the humanism of contemporary Japanese filmmakers, and his mercilessly downbeat conclusion here suggests that morality is just another luxury of the rich. In Japanese with subtitles. 62 min.
By J.R. Jones