University of Laughs (2004) Poster

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8/10
highly political film cleverly disguised in comedy
mariafefauk3 August 2005
It is amazing and rare when a film manages to reach us and surprise us by succeeding our expectations. In my personal experience, THE UNIVERSITY OF LAUGHS is one of such films. What I loved the most about this particular film is how complex issues which throughout history have affected cultural expression can be represented and illustrated in such a fine and simple fashion.

Sakisaka, a government official entrusted with creating favorable conditions for the maximum expansion of the ruling ideology, through the censorship and manipulation of messages in popular culture meets his counterpart in a humble theater script writer seeking approval for his latest project. The movie evolves and progresses as both, censor and writer work together, with and against each other to achieve their individual interests.

My favorite moment is that in which Hajime Tsubaki becomes aware that his interest and passion for comedy writing, transcends the personal and collective interests of his boss, his colleagues and even his nation. He can live with the criticism and punishment offered to him by friends, peers and society at large but he cannot live without being true to himself, therefore, he is left with no option but to follow his comic nature through his gift of writing. This is the most purely political phase in the film, and it marks the decisive passage of struggle from the individual structure, to the sphere of the complex superstructures.

In all, this is a beautiful and clever display of Japanese culture and worldwide struggle for freedom of speech, and a subtle reminder of how far we have come to reach the stage of cultural freedom that many of us enjoy today.
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10/10
A complex and superbly funny film
kevbee8 June 2005
Cinema doesn't get much better than this. Adapted from the successful 1996 play by Koki Mitani, Warai no Daigaku (University of Laughs) directed by Mamoru Hoshi was an audience hit at its premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival. It's not hard to see why.

Set in pre-WW2 Japan, the story focuses on a young playwright's attempt to get his comedy script approved by a deeply humourless government censor. As the two men work with and against each other, the script changes and evolves - with unexpected results.

The film is essentially a two-hander (the director has done little to disguise that this was initially a stage play) and the two leads are brilliantly played by Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dansu?) as the censor and Goro Inagaki as the jittery writer.

It is said that there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy. This film treads that line with a light step. The result is a near perfect film that is funny yet also poignant, touching and genuinely moving. Let's hope Hollywood doesn't decide to remake it.
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8/10
masterclass from Yaksuho Koji
CountZero3131 November 2006
Warai no Daigaku is a comedy with a serious message. Stone-faced WWII censor Koji gives aspiring playwright Goro a run through the ringer as both men trade barbs on their way to unexpected fates. The tempo is brisk, laugh out loud moments aplenty, and the pay-off adds depth to what could easily have been an extended pun session. Koji excels as the authoritarian bureaucrat who lets his guard down to reveal thespian longings. His change from stone-faced oppressor, to collaborator, back to oppressor, is complex and perfectly timed. Unfortunately, Goro is a lightweight who manages not to offend too much by giving a tolerable performance here. His variety TV background carries him through the comedic moments, but when something heavier is called for, he simply isn't up to it. A pity, because this film could have been a classic but for that one moment of miscasting.

The simple locations, and rhythmic cutting between interrogation room, street and vaudeville theatre, imbibe the film with a simplicity in terms of pace that belies the gravitas of the themes. Warai no Daigaku never insults the tragic events that it is based upon. The filmmakers manage to get humour out of a situation that, historically, must have been soul- destroying for the individuals involved. Inventively shot, well-acted, convincingly cut, this is a film to watch and go back to.
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8/10
A good comedy about writing a comedy
anandserpi6 September 2005
Writing comedy is hard, especially, if you have to face an authoritarian, ex-soldier censor officer who never laughed all his life and was proud of it. That's the premise of this extraordinary movie which is set in Japan during WWII. It is originally a play, so we can hope for tons and tons of witty dialogs between the young playwright and the censor officer. The former is struggling to get approval of his next comedy script while the latter is determined to close down all theater performances in the city, simply because "…it is inappropriate to get a few laughs during this time of war…" Then, suddenly, the movie turns into a lesson of how to write a good comedy as the censor officer keeps criticizing the script and demands changing. There are lots of warm and funny moments, but toward the ending, it suddenly becomes tense and heartbreaking. It almost becomes a tragedy. The whole movie is basically played by those two characters. Other characters can easily be extras. The setting is very minimalist as nearly 80 percent of the movie is located inside the interrogation room. The message we can get from this movie is that there is always comedy inside anybody's life, whether you want it or not. It is no use denying it. Just as it is no use denying not to like this incredible movie once you see it.
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9/10
Simple brilliance
Artifam27 September 2017
Not a film for the easily bored or sub-title phobic, as this film is a strictly dialogue based story between a comedic writer and his draconian censor set in pre-war Japan, where humanity is pitted against authoritarianism. As flat as that may sound, the dialogue that ensues between the protagonists is both incredibly comedic and emotional, and moreover brutally insightful into a dark period of imperialistic Japanese history that a Western audience has dwindling knowledge of. I cannot recommend this film enough, perhaps even best watched alone, which helps the viewer empathise more personally with the embattled comedic writer pitted against the brick wall of the state. This film will remain with you.
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8/10
the great actors
sawii2913 September 2013
Sakisaka, working as an inspector of comedy script, hardly laughs. One day, he meets a scriptwriter named Tsubaki Hajime. Tsubaki comes to him to get the script checked, then it can be on at his theater. However, Sakisaka doesn't say "ok", he asks him to rewrite and bring it the next day. Tsumaki follows his advice and the two come to make the script more interesting together. But it doesn't last so long. One day, Tsubaki brings a sad news with a great comedy script and then,,,

I laughed a lot seeing this movie. Koji Yakusho, acted Sakisaka, is one of the greatest actors in Japan. I'm a big fan of him. Sakisaka is a serious person. He doesn't laugh and dislike comedy, but gradually changes. Yakusho expressed the small change faithfully in the film. And I'm also a fan of Koji Mitani. His movies are always funny and interesting.

This movie must make you laugh and give you bravery to keep going what you like to do.
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8/10
A drama of making a drama,
CitoyenAska21 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This is a drama of writing a drama. Mainly, there are only two characters, a comedy writer and a censor, in the drama. Both are very symbolized (thus, the drama can go on with the only two persons)- the writer can't stop writing something funny and the censor has not laughed in his whole lifetime. And one of the themes is certainly to insist the strength of comedy so the censor, as an incarnation of "anti-humor", gradually inclines toward the comedy writer with showing his hidden ability of writing a comedy. Being a tragedy of the writer, as he finally gets drafted, but also this is a tragedy of the censor. The censor is depicted as an obstinate but fundamentally common and good guy in the similar sense that Hannah Arendt wrote about Eichmann. In the beginning, the censor introduces him to the writer that he just had returned to Japan and previously suppressed rebellion against the Empire in Manchu. It is not described but suggested that he had enrolled in duty which might be judged in the court after the war.
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7/10
Two men haggle about "Laugh".
miace21 August 2014
On 1940, Japan is in war. The all play is banned by government. When dramatic company wants to do play, their script have to be inspected by the police. In this age, there are two men. One is Kosaka, he have never laughed since he was born. Another one is Tsubaki, he is a playwright writing for "Dramatic Company of Laughs". They meet in the investigation room. Kosaka demands to Tsucaki to rewrite script exceot laughs. The main characters are only two. Kosaka and Tsucaki. Main set is the investigation room. They persuade each other for 7 days. Original story was made by Koki Mitani. He is playwrightm scriptwriter, film director and stage director. Originally, this story is a stage play. That's why, even only investigation room, the story can be very funny. Especially, Kosaka, Koji Yakusho is acted, his action is very good. How he is changed by Tsubaki is great. This movie break old movie's stereotype.
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7/10
Tightly packed satire that delivers much with its small scope.
mel_protoss4 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This film is impressive for how much meaning it manages to capture in it's small scope – two main sets and two main actors, with hardly any special effects. Set within the narrative frame of a censure review process, the drama unfolds from Day 1 to Day 7 as a playwright's (Goro Inagaki) script is rejected time and time again by the censor (Koji Yakusho). As the censor demands more changes each day, he finds himself caught up in the creative process.

Herein lies the film's starkest satirical point. On an individual level, a censor aids, rather than stifles the creative process. While he begins as an inhuman personification of the institution and/or the state, he is humanized by his developing friendship with the playwright. This 'humanization' is depicted through scenes of his daily activities (eating at a sushi bar, traveling, outside his uniform etc) towards the end of the film. On a structural level, the narrative frame – the censure review process – is contrasted against the end result of that process: the playwright produces a brilliant comedy, and we too, enjoy a brilliant comedy.

The film culminates in the playwright confessing his true intentions, which meets the censor's own philosophy head on. What was previously ignored or forgotten because of their growing friendship can no longer be, and the censor is forced to issue an ultimatum. The buildup in poignancy was not overdone, though it could have been more subtle. Nevertheless, this development threatens to derail the entire buildup in plot, for it rendered all other changes to the playwright's script nugatory. But the risk paid off, and the result is, instead of being left with an unsatisfying cop-out of a friendly agreement to disagree, we get to watch a true transformation of character.
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10/10
My favorite movie in that I have ever seen.
little-greenmen2 October 2013
In World WarⅡ, Japanese government was controlling every entertainment. This is the story of director of comedy stage and sensor of government.

This story's point of interest, the censor's thinking changes gradually, because of the eager director. At first, the censor tried to not forgive it hate even to laugh, but the director's avid attitude and his fascinating script made the censor change. The other key point is historical back ground. How do you expect the ending of this story?

I like this movie so much. Koji Yakusyo acts the censor who don't have interest in entertainment, and too serious. In addition, he has never laughed anything so far. The other hand, Goro Inagaki acts the director who makes funny stories, and also he is earnest too. The both of actor's acting are wonderful and they matched their role.

This film has so many points of laugh, and give us warm feeling after watch it. Especially, I was cried by last scene. This is one of the greatest film what I've ever seen. I want to recommend it to everyone.
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9/10
Review
mao-yana3211 September 2013
The story is set in the age when the comedy in public was restricted by the government. An inspector and a comedy writer make a comedy within the legally permissible level together. The funny words and rhythmical music still linger in my head because two of them repeat practices again and again while working out a detailed plan. This film was scripted by Koki Mitani who is the famous scriptwriter and director in Japan. Most of his works are comedies and make me laugh every time. As the title says, this film also makes me laugh. I like Koji Yakusho who plays the part of the inspector in this film and he appears on most of works by Koki Mitani. In this film, "Mitani World" is developed like other his works. I recommend everyone to watch the film because the film not only is funny but also describes the times.
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6/10
Good Film, but perhaps too "Simple"
sourceoftheend11 November 2006
I went into this movie knowing only the title , "WARAI NO DAIGAKU" (UNIVERSITY OF LAUGHS) and that it was in Japanese. Having seen it, I think it's a good film to see in the theater (to share the audience's experience), but I wouldn't buy it.

The film, which is based on a screen play, may seemed a little simple/minimalist at times (and in some ways, it is). But, it's original, unpredictable, and simply enjoyable to watch as you become more involved with the interactions between the young play write and the censor.

I didn't really think of the acting while watching the film--but that's a sign of good acting, right, when the viewer doesn't second guess the events unfolding on screen. So, I think the acting was very believable and good.

From an outside cultural viewpoint, it was interesting seeing a 1940s Japan, where the streets signs aren't plagued by English or katakana. In addition to simply seeing sets and wardrobe from the 1940s, and coming to understand how comedy was back then, there are a couple social comments as well (about the war).

UNIVERSITY OF LAUGHS is not just a slap-stick comedy or purely for entertainment value, and that surprised me. Depth and personality (and conflicts) are developed in a short amount of time on screen, and social issues of the time (which still apply today) are even addressed at times.

If you want to lose yourself in a story for a couple hours while laughing a little and seeing 1940s Japan, this film is for you. But I don't think it leaves enough of an impression to become a hit with audiences overseas.
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A Review
cledorurun21 October 2013
In Showa era, before the World War 2, a prosecutor named Sakisaka and a dramatist named Tsubaki meets in an investigation room of the metropolitan police department. At first Sakisaka tries to prevent Tsubaki's theatrical company "University of Laughs," but as they rewrite the script, Sakisaka comes to enjoy the rewriting with Tsubaki…

This movie is almost composed of the conversations of the two and the situation hardly changes from the investigation room. Thus, some people may think this movie do not have passionate scene and the images are boring. On the other hand, the two actors play the contrastive characterized men. I think it great that their conversations which draws the attentions of the audience. Tsubaki has a ready wit and promptly thinks of the lines which are full of humor. The humor which Tsubaki think every time made me laugh.

I was also impressed with the set of the structure. Actually they are buildings now exist, they looks like the real Tokyo in the beginning of Showa era.
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