[From May Issue 2011]
The Yellow Handkerchief (Directed by YAMADA Yoji)
This is director YAMADA Yoji’s film adaptation of a New York Post newspaper column written by American journalist Pete HAMILL. It was awarded the 1977 First Japan Academy Prize for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role, among several others. The actual movie location is still preserved and the leading character’s red car can be seen on exhibit in Yubari, Hokkaido. In 2008 the movie was remade independently starring William HURT.
Kinya, who is disappointed with love, quits his job and buys a red car with his retirement money, in which he takes a ferry ride to Hokkaido. There, he unexpectedly meets Akemi with whom he enjoys a drive down to the beach. Upon their arrival, they ask Yusaku, a recent ex-convict, to take their photo. After doing so, he joins them on their ride.
They invite Yusaku, who has no immediate plans, on a trip to a hot spring. Slowly, the rashness of Kinya’s character comes to light while Akemi gradually becomes more talkative. Conversely, Yusaku seems reticent and preoccupied by something. Accidentally, Kinya and Akemi are given the same room in which he makes a pass at her, unsuccessfully. Akemi resists and starts crying. Yusaku then enters to scold Kinya for his actions.
Although they quarrel, the three continue traveling together. A few days later, Kinya gets attacked by a lowly thug, but the three escape by car with Yusaku driving. However, they are soon stopped at a police check point where it was discovered that Yusaku doesn’t have a driver’s license and that he also just got out of prison. Finally, Yusaku explains his past.
Yusaku used to work in a coal mine and had a wife named Mitsue. When she had a miscarriage, he became very distraught, started to drink heavily, eventually fighting with and killing a man. For that, he was imprisoned. A few days before the end of his six-year sentence, he wrote to his estranged wife. His message was simple: “If you will take me back, please hang a yellow handkerchief from the pole in front of our house.”
Kinya and Akemi decide to help a fearful Yusaku find out her answer by taking him to Yubari. Once there, on a high pole in front of the house that Yusaku and his wife once shared, they see dozens of yellow handkerchiefs all fluttering in the breeze. As he walked towards the house from the car, he sees Mitsue waiting for him. Then, with tears rolling down her cheeks, she helps him with his bag, as the film comes to an end.