Screening here for the first time in a stunning 4K restoration, one of Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu’s most elusive and under-viewed films, made working as a director-for-hire for Toho.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Having been lured to make a film for Toho with a lucrative offer, The Munekata Sisters marks Yasujiro Ozu’s first departure from his usual studio Shochiku, albeit with the caveat of agreeing to use the Toho’s story and actors. It proved to be no impediment with the master filmmaker delivering an atmospheric drama in the best Ozu manner.
“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.” – Harvard Film Archive