The Munekata Sisters
(Munekata Shimai)

Screening on Film
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu.
With Kinuyo Tanaka, Hideko Takamine, Ken Uehara.
Japan, 1950, 35mm, black & white, 116 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.

Two of Japan’s greatest actresses and several leading actors were assembled for this stunning “prestige production,” which Ozu was commissioned to direct. The Munekata sisters—Setsuko (played by Mizoguchi veteran Kinuyo Tanaka) and Mariko (Naruse star Hideko Takamine)—reveal the two poles of postwar Japanese society. Feisty and modern Mariko dresses in western attire and represents the liberated woman, while the placid and traditional Setsuko dresses in kimonos. To emphasize the tensions between modernity and tradition, between the old Japan and the new, Ozu employs a series of picturesque settings such as the Moss Temple in Kyoto, a mountain villa in Hakone, and the Yakushiji Temple near Nara. Though more linear and elaborately mounted than any other Ozu film, The Munekata Sisters is typically rigorous and exquisitely composed. In the end Ozu manages to wrest profound emotion from convention.

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