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Masters of Asian Cinema: Yasujiro Ozu and Hou Hsiao-hsien

Friday, February 19, 2010
7:00 p.m. That Night’s Wife
Yasujiro Ozu (Japan, 1930)

Judith Rosenberg on Piano

(Sono yo no tsuma). A crime melodrama based on a Western-style magazine story and inspired by Fritz Lang and American thrillers. Ozu tests the conventions as he employs them, “drawing on thriller iconography for its own sake” and thereby distancing himself from the genre, as David Bordwell has noted. The film is set in a twelve-hour period. A commercial artist of meager means is driven to robbery in order to provide medicine for his critically ill daughter. As the film opens he is being pursued by the police. After a series of diversions, he hails a gypsy cab that delivers him to his door—but the night is young. Much of the delight of this film is in the play of visuals and the use of space, from the taxicab with its mirrors to the family’s cluttered apartment, where most of the action takes place.

• Written by Kogo Noda, from a story adaptation by Ozu. Photographed by Hideo Shigehara. With Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yakumo, Mitsuko Ichimura, Togo Yamamoto. (67 mins, Silent with English intertitles, B&W, 35mm, From Janus/Criterion Collection)