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Japanese Divas

Sunday, July 10, 2011
5:00 p.m. Woman of Tokyo and A Hen in the Wind
Yasujiro Ozu (Japan, 1933)

Judith Rosenberg on Piano

(Tokyo no onna). This was one of Ozu's "quickies"—something to think about as the film haunts you long after it's over. Against the backdrop of the Depression, a young typist (Kinuyo Tanaka, Japan’s “Modern Girl”) resorts to prostitution to put her younger brother Ryoichi through college; when he finds out, tragedy ensues. Reminiscent, in its theme of women's sacrifice, of the social-realist films that Naruse began making at this time, and Mizoguchi a bit later, Woman of Tokyo could not be more different, because Ozu works melodrama in mysterious ways.

• Written by Kogo Noda, Tadao Ikeda, from a story by "Ernst Schwartz" (Ozu). Photographed by Hideo Shigehara. With Yoshiko Okada, Ureo Egawa, Kinuyo Tanaka, Shinyo Nara. (47 mins, Silent with Japanese intertitles and English subtitles)

Followed by:
A Hen in the Wind
Yasuziro Ozu (Japan, 1948)

(Kaze no naka no mendori). "Ozu brilliantly and honestly confronts the postwar moment" (Joan Mellon) in this tragedy of a destitute woman, Tokiko (Kinuyo Tanaka), awaiting her husband's demobilization. When her son becomes ill, she takes the advice of a meddlesome neighbor and prostitutes herself to pay the hospital bill. Upon his return, the husband is irate; it is only when he visits a prostitute himself that he begins to understand what his wife has gone through. Ozu evinces an almost Mizoguchean focus on the oppressed woman before taking up the context that would become his treasured domain: the deterioration of the Japanese family, and the resilience of its individual members, under the onslaught of modern life.

• Written by Ryosuke Saito, Ozu. Photographed by Yuharu Atsuta. With Kinuyo Tanaka, Shuji Sano, Chieko Murata, Chishu Ryu. (84 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles)




—Judy Bloch

• (Total running time: 131 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Janus Films/Criterion Collection)