Humanity & Paper Balloons

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Sadao Yamanaka

We are based in South London near Croydon, UK, and if preferred this item can be picked up by appointment. Just e-mail here. I also welcome the old fashioned cheque and po as it is cheaper to process and all orders are sent off same day as cheque received.


  • Actors: Chojuro Kawarasaki, Kanemon Nakamura, Tsuruzo Nakamura, Choemon Bando, Sukezo Sukedakaya
    Director: Sadao Yamanaka
    Writer: Shintarô Mimura
    Format: Black & White, PAL
    Language: Japanese
    Subtitles: English
    Region: Region 2 (UK & Europe)
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    Number of discs: 1
    Classification: PG

    Studio: Eureka Entertainment
    DVD Release Date: 25 Jul 2005
    Run Time: 92 minutes

Humanity and Paper Balloons

Sadao Yamanaka, 1937

  • Widely regarded as Yamanaka’s greatest achievement, Humanity and Paper Balloons [Ninjo kami fusen] was, tragically, his last film, and only one of three that survive today. In a short, six year, 22 film career Yamanaka quickly earned a reputation for exceptionally fluid editing and a beautiful visual form likened to the paintings of Japanese masters.

    The story develops in the Tokugawa era of the 18th century, in a poor district of Tokyo, where impoverished samurai live from hand to mouth among equally poor people of lower social classes. One such ronin (masterless samurai) Matajuro, spends his day looking for work whilst his wife, Otaki, makes cheap paper balloons at home. One rainy night, Shinza, a barber, and equally penniless, impulsively abducts the daughter of a wealthy merchant, hiding her at Matajuro’s home. Their desperate plan has grave consequences when a ransom attempt backfires. The film, which starts and ends with suicide, is deeply pessimistic, insisting that life in feudal Japan was hellish and short for those at the foot of the social ladder.

    Humanity and Paper Balloons premiered the day Yamanaka was drafted to the frontline at the start of WWII. He died in Manchuria, 1938, aged just 29. Boasting naturalistic performances and fine ensemble playing (from the left-wing theatre troupe Zenshin-za), The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present this rare gem for the first time on home video in the West.

    • Newly restored transfer
    • New, improved English subtitle translation by Tony Rayns (optional)
    • Production stills gallery
    • 24-page booklet with excerpts from Yamanaka’s diaries, new essays by Tony Rayns, Shinji Aoyama, Kimitoshi Sato; and a reprint of Yamanaka’s will.

    • ---------------------------------------------------------------

      Japan | 82 min.
      1.33:1 OAR
      black & white

  • Price: £24.99
    UK Sterling (new)(includes UK postage & packaging)

    To reserve this item please e-mail by clicking here and include country ordering from. I will then get back to you within 24 hours with availability, price including postage and methods of payment (paypal, cheque, which is preferred, po etc.).

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