Yasuzo Masumura’s film Giants and Toys centers on the caramel producing company “World” as it tries to surpass its competitors “Apollo” and “Giant” in sales. The challenge the protagonist Yousuke Nishi and his fellow businessmen face is to advertise a product as simple as caramel in a way that compels people to buy the “World” brand name even though the ingredients of their caramels are essentially indistinguishable from their competitors. Nishi discovers and employs Kyoko Shima, a naïve and desperate, charming simpleton to become the new face of “World” caramels in the hopes that she will attract more consumers. The plot follows Kyoko’s transformation into a Japanese superstar and how her rise to fame affects her personal life and appearance, and the profit driven executives who represent her. As Kyoko is cultivated into a pop culture icon, the audience is given insight into how the prosperity of “World” caramels dictates the personal lives and well being of the individuals who work there. All of the workers in this extremely capitalistic driven, Japanese society depend on money and success as the sole source of their gratification and contentment. Nishi, the young, fledging “World” executive, is the only one who questions the effects industrialization and capitalism have on humanity as he watches his love interest and boss surrender their personal values to its demands.
Giants and Toys is a comedy that relies on satire to comment on Japan’s transformation into a Mammon worshipping society. Masumura uses camera angle and focus to accentuate what is thematically important in each complex scene. In the image I have posted to this blog, Kyoko is participating in her first photo shoot. This screenshot shows the silhouette of her legs as the cameraman Harukawa holds up the lens of the camera. He asks Kyoko to, “stop sleeping around” because “it’s starting to show”. This scene is comedic because of Harukawa’s blunt commentary, however, it is also ironically sad because it underscores the objectification Kyoko enthusiastically succumbs to in order to make money. Later as they review Kyoko’s roll of film Harukawa states, “she looks good through a view finder. Plus she can lick her nose”. This notion of Kyoko appearing to be attractive through the medium of a lens poses the question of what constitutes reality.
Is Kyoko attractive in real life? Or is it just the camera’s distortion of her image that makes her appear to be alluring? The mass replication of her image through pop art and advertisement propagates a version of her self that would otherwise go unnoticed if it weren’t for the technology of the camera that illuminates her enchanting qualities. Kyoko is metaphorically used in the same way caramels are in this film because both are inherently simple yet animated and presented in a way that makes them seem unique and exceptional. Masumura’s use of camera angle and focus demonstrates how creators of film, like the business executives in Giants and Toys, can manipulate our perceptions of reality by framing our outlook to accentuate particular parts of a whole. The camera angle and candy wrappers subliminally direct us to what is deemed as important and worth focusing on in their presentation.