man in a suit sitting on the stairs of a Japanese temple with his head turned toward the woman next to him in traditional Japanese dress, speakingalr

The Munekata Sisters
(Munekata kyodai)

Screening on Film
Directed by Ozu Yasujiro.
With Tanaka Kinuyo, Takamine Hideko, Uehara Ken.
Japan, 1950, 35mm, black & white, 112 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
Print source: The Japan Foundation

Produced and distributed by Shintoho, the rarely screened The Munekata Sisters tells the tale of two sisters caught in the transitional tensions of the Occupation years. The elder Setsuko (Tanaka Kinuyo) is married to an abusive husband (Yamamura So); the younger and unmarried Mariko (Takamine Hideko) wants Setsuko to get a divorce and turns to Setsuko’s past love Hiroshi (Uehara Ken) for help. Reflective of the source material’s serialized format, there is a slightly repetitious rhythm to the way Ozu compares and contrasts the cigarette-smoking Mariko and the kimono-wearing Setsuko. Ozu did not select the film’s source material or its stars, making the film a noteworthy instance of reduced creative control. But Ozu’s endeavor to break out of this schematic structure produces some of his best dialogue regarding what it means to be modern beyond following trends or discarding traditions. These conversations, which conclude in ambivalence and ambiguity, pave the way for the more complex ideological differences seen in films like Tokyo Twilight and The End of Summer.



Part of film series

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Ozu 120: The Complete Ozu Yasujiro