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Japanese Divas

Friday, July 15, 2011
7:00 p.m. Immortal Love
Keisuke Kinoshita (Japan, 1961)

(Eien no hito, a.k.a. Bitter Spirit). If the poor girl/rich boy theme became outmoded with the economics of the postwar era, as critic Tadao Sato notes, this film, set in the 1930s, was its last masterpiece. In Kinoshita's hands the classic subject takes on a profound, even modern resonance as he invests melodrama with sharp insights into the economics of the human condition and compassion for woman's place within that structure. The twenty-eight-year saga takes place in a rural locale in the shadow of Mount Aso. The trials of this tiny community fill the wide screen, but seem to be haunted by events lurking offscreen in the world outside. Hideko Takamine portrays a sharecropper's daughter who, while awaiting the return of her fiancé, is raped by the son of the local landowner and then reluctantly sold to his rich family by her father. She never stops resenting her husband (Tatsuya Nakadai), and is determined that her children will escape his feudalistic household.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Kinoshita. Photographed by Hiroshi Kusuda. With Hideko Takamine, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiji Sata, Nobuko Otowa. (105 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 'Scope, 35mm, PFA Collection, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)