a young Japanese man and woman sit next to one another at a bar looking at the vieweralr

What Did the Lady Forget?
(Shukujo wa nani wo wasuretaka)

Screening on Film
Directed by Ozu Yasujiro.
With Kurishima Sumiko, Saito Tatsuo, Kuwano Michiko.
Japan, 1937, 35mm, black & white, 71 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
Print source: Janus Films

What Did the Lady Forget? is a special title in Ozu’s filmography because it sets out to be a comedy of manners, depicting the lives of the wealthy with a more satirical bent. The film’s bourgeois characters—not Ozu’s first, but his most opulent—are surrounded by reminders of their wealth: golf clubs, cakes, English homework, shopping bags. Chain-smoking, hard-drinking Setsuko (Kuwano Michiko) visits her rich uncle Komiya (Saito Tatsuo), whose socialite wife Tokiko (Kurishima Sumiko) loathes Setsuko’s newfangled ways. Komiya and Setsuko bond over a mutual resentment of Tokiko, but between them there is a surprising difference: Setsuko argues that Komiya must put his wife in her place—advice that belies her self-styling as a modern woman, and which makes the film’s title even more mystifying. Because the characters’ petty disagreements revolve around how to best spend one’s free time—for instance, whether to golf or go to a Ginza bar—the film implicitly invokes Ozu’s blue-collar characters who cannot afford such luxuries. Though Ozu does not exactly skewer the rich, he cleverly underscores the ideological contradictions and compromises that hold their identities in place.

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Ozu 120: The Complete Ozu Yasujiro