“Kramer vs. Kramer”
The moment I first rode a bicycle, who I was with.

There was a film movement called American New Cinema. It consisted of films released in the late 1960s to the 1970s such as “Easy Rider,” “The Graduate,” “Midnight Cowboy,” ” Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and “Apocalypse Now.” Perhaps one of the reasons for the frequent use of young directors was the incorporation of messages or somewhat critical perspectives on society and politics, taking a different approach from traditional entertainment films. American New Cinema was enthusiastically supported by younger generations and had a significant influence on subsequent films.

“Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) is also a product of the American New Cinema. The story revolves around a divorced couple and their child, with a simple narrative. The film begins with the lively music of Vivaldi’s “Mandolin Concerto RV 425”. Contrasting with this upbeat music, Joanna, played by Meryl Streep, wears a somber expression. She is on the verge of leaving, determined to leave the house without her son Billy (Meryl Streep’s performance, conveying emotions solely through expressions, is remarkable). Unaware of this, Ted (Dustin Hoffman) returns home from work, preoccupied with his job. Joanna announces her decision to leave Ted without giving a clear reason and walks out. Ted assumes she will soon return, but she doesn’t. Left to manage household chores he once left to Joanna, Ted struggles to balance parenting and work. He earnestly tries to be a good father, but Billy directs his loneliness from his mother’s departure towards Ted. Ted, exhausted both mentally and physically, faces mounting errors at work. Not only his job but also his relationship with his son deteriorates further.

One day, the two were in Central Park. Billy, astride a blue child’s bike, listened as his father advised and encouraged him on how to ride. Ted delightedly watched as Billy learned to ride the bike. Capturing the sight of his son riding a bike for the first time with a Nikon camera, Ted’s expression carried a poignant sadness, unable to share this happy moment with anyone. Sharing these moments of happiness is what defines a family. After this bittersweet yet joyous scene, Ted and Joanna begin their battle for custody of Billy.

“Kramer vs. Kramer” questioned the traditional family image of “men work, women stay home.” Even today, many can relate to it. This suggests that Japanese society may not have changed much since the younger generation questioned the old system during the American New Cinema era.


Text_Hideki Inoue
I am from Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. I work as a writer and editor. My hobbies include hot baths, skiing, and fishing. Although I have no personal connection, I am independently conducting research on Shiga Prefecture. I prefer an active fishing style called “RUN & GUN,” which involves moving around actively instead of staying in one place. Purchasing a car to transport bicycles for this style of cycling seems like putting the cart before the horse.

Illusutration_Michiharu Saotome

“Izakaya Choji”
The coolness of Ken-san riding a bicycle on the slopes of Hakodate.

When I was traveling through Hokkaido by train, there was a peculiar announcement. It warned us to be careful because the name of the next station had changed for a drama shoot. The atmosphere in the train buzzed with excitement. It was a popular drama set in Furano, Hokkaido. The train arrived at the station, but we passed what seemed to be the film crew. Then, in the corner of the platform, I saw a tall man. Even though he had a hat pulled down low, I immediately recognized him as Ken Takakura. Perhaps he had come to visit the filming location of an old friend (Kunie Tanaka). Acknowledging our gaze, Ken-san shyly raised his hand in greeting. It was an overwhelming coolness. Since then, although not from the same generation, I started watching films starring Ken Takakura.

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Life is beautiful, and that is all.

For a certain generation, Wim Wenders is a special figure. During the era when art-house cinemas had a significant cultural impact, his films were considered “must-see movies.” Following the success of “Paris, Texas” (1985) and “Wings of Desire” (1987), Wenders’ works such as “The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick,” “Alice in the Cities,” and “Kings of the Road” were repeatedly re-released. While not necessarily fervent, Wenders’ films were quietly embraced. The influence he has had on contemporary filmmakers and visual artists is immeasurable (film students in Japan were only making road movies in the narrow confines).

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