Friday, October 29, 2010


Continuing its commitment to contemporary Japanese fare, VIZ Cinema has been busy throughout the month of October with the San Francisco premiere of John H. Lee's Sayonara Itsuka: Goodbye, Someday (2010); encore screenings of Junichi Suzuki's documentary 442—Live with Honor, Die with Dignity (2010); the U.S. premiere of Takeshi Koike's anime Redline; while likewise hosting the San Francisco Film Society's Taiwan Film Days.

But VIZ Cinema has granted equal time to honor classic Japanese cinema, most recently with four Yasujirō Ozu films profiling the performances of Setsuko Hara—Late Spring (1949), Early Summer (1954), Late Autumn (1960) and Tokyo Twilight (1957)—and currently with four films by Kenji Mizoguchi: Women of the Night (1948), Miss Oyu (1951), Life of Oharu (1952), and Sansho the Bailiff (1952) (running through early November).

As profiled at Wikipedia, "Setsuko Hara (原 節子, June 17, 1920) is a retired Japanese actress who appeared in many of Yasujirō Ozu's films, most notably as Noriko in the Noriko Trilogy (Late Spring, Early Summer, and Tokyo Story). She was born 会田 昌江 Masae Aida in Yokohama, Kanagawa prefecture. She also starred in films by Akira Kurosawa, Mikio Naruse and other prominent directors. She is called "the Eternal Virgin" in Japan and is a symbol of the golden era of Japanese cinema of the 1950s, although she is mostly unknown in the US. She suddenly quit acting in 1963 (the same year as Ozu's death), and has since led a secluded life in Kamakura, refusing all interviews and photographs. Her last major role was Riku, wife of Ōishi Yoshio, in the 1962 film, Chushingura. She was the inspiration for the protagonist of the 2001 movie Millennium Actress." has attractively compiled her collaborations with Ozu, including the essay "Something About Setsuko" (taken from her fan page), an article by Donald Richie, and Peter Bradshaw's profile for The Guardian.

I caught two of the Ozu films: Late Spring and Tokyo Twilight. Both have been released on Criterion with insightful essays by Michael Atkinson and Michael Koresky, respectively. Of equal interest is Dan Harper's profile on Setsuko Hara for Senses of Cinema and Jerome Delamater's for Film Reference (updated by Corey K. Creekmur).

Cross-published on


Shelley Diekman said...

She is soooo wonderful in LATE SPRING.

Michael Guillen said...

Isn't she? Her smile is a knockout and her vulnerable shift from devoted daughter to a woman coming into her own is a timeless performance.

Noel Vera said...

Late Spring also has one of the most heartbreaking endings I know of.

Michael Guillen said...

Indeed. Who would think that the image of peeling an apple could express the necessary loneliness of a parent left behind?