For something completely different, Kurosawa does a bunch of smaller stories on a lively slum. Not one is resolved in any way, thus was a just sneak peak into their lives.

There is an homeless child with his father. The father is always imagining highfalutin mansions from them to live, hyper detailed and fancy. The child worries about the practicalities of life. An inversion from the norm that leads to Life is Beautiful. The imagination runs so wild, the child dies from starvation after eating ruined fish.

The Japanese beauty, living with her monstrous uncle and kind aunt. When the aunt goes away for an operation, she works herself to exhaustion, and still has to cope with being raped by that drunk. After nearly killing him offscreen, she finally talks to the boy that delivers sake, even if it’s for rebuking his advances. Maybe next time. The American Beauty parallels are not silly: the girl sleeps amongst a bed of (paper) flowers, and there’s a shot of a plastic bag fluttering in the wind.

There’s an older, wiser guy, who does intricate metalwork, and acts as the shaman for the lot, a guru. When a guy gets out of the house swinging a katana around in a drunken fit, he calms him down. When a guy sees nothing worth living for, he gives him a “fast-acting poison” and reminds him of his family, and how suicide is akin to killing them again in his mind. He achieves enlightenment.

Another story is the henpecked husband and the bitchy wife. Turns out she stood by him through hard times, insulting his co-workers is a small character flaw he can gloss over. He himself limps and has a kind of nervous tick, he knows what it means for people to mock him.

There’s another husband, this time married to the sluttiest stereotype ever. His many kids might result from her affairs, but he doesn’t care either, it’s good enough that they like him. Who can tell what our “real” parents are, and who cares? Kurosawa doesn’t, and he descends from Samurai.

Yet another husband which is the opposite of this. He was cheated on by his upper class wife, and left for the slums, forever tainted by the knowledge that his mother-in-law was right. His wife gets back with him, but he is catatonic, never says a word nor even looks at her. She leaves after apologising profusely, dead inside like the tree that she finds inside his house.

The two couples, colour coded for our convenience, but in which the guys are always so drunk they switch wives frequently. They don’t seem to care either.

Finally, the titular boy. The Train Loon, he is called. His mother is very devout, but he’s more focused on driving his imagined train, complete with all the required hand motions and sound effects. Every day, rain or shine, he is there, checking if the imagined repair crew did a good job, and going back and forth screaming “Dodeskaden Dodeskaden Dodeskaden”.

All this happens within a small square, where a bunch of women pretend to wash the dishes, when in fact they talk and talk about everyone’s lives.


This is my place for ramblings about sequences of images that exploit the human visual limitation know as persistence of vision.

Ephemera of Vision