a man and a woman stare at each other as he grabs her by the armalr

A Hen in the Wind
(Kaze no naka no mendori)

Screening on Film
Directed by Ozu Yasujiro.
With Tanaka Kinuyo, Sano Shuji, Miyake Kuniko.
Japan, 1948, 35mm, black & white, 84 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA

Ozu referred to his second postwar film as one of his “bad failures.” Audiences and critics likewise were mixed on the film, deemed by some as derivative and overly melodramatic. However, the frankness with which Ozu addresses ruptured prewar dreams and postwar losses make the film an incredibly valuable work, providing the foundation for the wartime anecdotes told by characters in Ozu’s later films. While waiting for her husband Shuichi’s repatriation, Tokiko (Tanaka) turns to sex work to pay for her son’s hospital bills. When Shuichi (Sano Shuji) returns, the trauma of political violence triggers acts of domestic violence. The premise of A Hen in the Wind (and its casting of Tanaka Kinuyo as a woman faced with overwhelming hardship) invokes the films of Mizoguchi, but Ozu’s take on a common subject of Occupation films—the gender difference in men and women’s postwar experiences—emphasizes a day-to-day perseverance without the escape of martyrdom. Therefore, A Hen in the Wind continues well after Tokiko’s sacrifice and after Shuichi’s return, as the couple decides how to continue—not with a smile but with tears and gritted teeth.

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