It is said that Yasuzo Masumura used to have a slogan: “My movies are always ten years ahead.” This seems perfectly accurate on Giants and Toys, a satire comedy directed by him in 1958. Produced after WWII during the period when Japanese economy was about to develop miraculously, the movie portrays the severe marketing strategy competition between three caramel manufacturers: World, Giant and Apollo. World, where Goda and Yosuke work, discovers Kyoko and makes her a star, then uses her to marketing its caramel.
This movie is so unique from the Japanese comedy back at that time. Yasuzo Masumura was trying to make his movie more masculine, instead of the traditional feminine poetic aesthetics. It’s more like a rebel for a director. We can see many symbols of that intention in the movie. Its fast pace, rapid line flow, over exaggerated gesture and nonstop dialogue can rarely be seen in other movies of same kind. Not only its format gives signal of avant-garde, but also the ideas of some scenes make it ahead of its time. No matter the mass production of Kyoko at the beginning, the robotic people stream, or the overwhelming sales figure on the wall, they all convey the idea of mass consumption, which was not a mainstream idea at that time. It was approximately 10 years after the movie was produced did the Japanese ridiculed “economic animal” by other countries in the world. Another shocking aspect is the way the businessmen were depicted. Most of businessmen in the movie back at that time were portrayed as normal, gentle and stable. In Giants and Toys, however, they were depicted without any gentlemanly business ethos. This description of insane workaholics was a breakthrough in the movie industry and was astonishing for the Japanese audience. These features differentiate Giants and Toys, from other movies and make it a pioneer of Japanese comedy.
It is true that this is comedy, but we need to dig deeper to see what the director tries to tell us. Under the warm atmosphere where the economy takes off, all the people in the movie, including Goda, Kyoko, Yosuke and his girlfriend, seem to have lost themselves. Yasozu didn’t aim the audience to the rich, but satirize their filthy side to the working-class. In the movie, he created the greedy boss who only wants to win the war of sales and doesn’t care other things. He, a perfect example of bourgeoisie, demands Goda to battle off Giant and Apollo at all cost. Goda, an example of proletariat on the other hand, sacrifices his health to work harder and harder; at the end of the movie, he is almost insane about the success of the marketing campaign. Kyoto turns from an innocent girl to an unctuous media star, haggling over every penny; as her tadpole dies one by one, she can never be back; she will eventually be out of her true identity and become a symbol fragment in the society. Business rookie Yosuke comes to World with dreams, but what wait him are betray and endless throat-cut competition; in the end, he compromises to Goda and wears the spacesuit to continue the campaign; his experience is just an example of the stone collides with alp and gets round off. As a communist, Yasozu tries to criticize the media bombardment, lack of personality and the shallow relationship between people, all brought by profit competition under the rapid development of economy.
It is a crazy and wild movie, but it’s a prophecy as well. It predicts the giant power of mass consumption and the manipulation to people by mass media.