Film Society of Lincoln Center Celebrates KEISUKE KINOSHITA, Beginning Today
The Film Society of Lincoln Center presents a 15-film centenary celebration of THE FILMS OF KEISUKE KINOSHITA, tonight, November 7-15.
December 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of Keisuke Kinoshita’s birth, a filmmaker who is universally considered one of the greatest Japanese directors of all time. In total, Kinoshita made 49 films including his most famous, TWENTY-FOUR EYES, still considered the gold standard in Japanese film history and the critically acclaimed masterpiece THE BALLAD OF NARAYAMA. Both will be screened during this series and tickets are on sale now, visit Filmlinc.com.
“Long regarded inside Japan as one its greatest filmmakers, Keisuke Kinoshita has only recently begun to be fully appreciated internationally” said Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Program Director, Richard Peña. “Like his longtime colleague at Shochiku, Yasujiro Ozu, Kinoshita also favored shomin-geki, stories of everyday life, and there is no more insightful chronicler of the transformation of postwar Japanese life; yet unlike Ozu, he worked in a wide variety of styles, from starkly realist dramas to highly stylized kabuki adaptations.”
Highlights of the series include Japan’s first color feature film, the charming musical satire Carmen Comes Home and the bold experimentation of A Japanese Tragedy, a work whose jumbled timeframe and insertion of newsreel footage anticipates the modernist films of the Sixties. Kinoshita made bold use of traditional Japanese art forms such as kabuki (The Ballad of Narayama) and brush painting (The River Fuefuki), but could just as easily indulge in a steamy melodrama (Woman). Tickets on sale today!
“As a director, I’m busily thinking from morning til night how to depict real people. Audiences soon forget most controversial films, but they always remember the ones which made them cry. I think making films is the duty of the film director.” – Director Kinoshita
Kinoshita moved into the director’s chair after a traditional apprenticeship at the studio, and his familiarity with the many technical aspects of filmmaking led to his demanding the greatest effort from his crews. Perhaps the major theme that runs through his work is the loss of innocence: one character, usually the protagonist, at some point comes up against the harsh realities of the world. This emphasis on the individual, and his or her ability to craft their own choices, gave the early postwar films a progressive tine, but one can also sense the darkening of his vision as he moves into the Sixties. Although an early proponent for change in Japan, Kinoshita was clearly a man out of step with the vastly different country that had strayed from its traditions far more than anyone has ever imagined, as one can see in his final masterpiece, the remarkable The Scent of Incense.
The series was organized in collaboration with Shochiku and with the support of the Japan Foundation. Special thanks also to the Criterion Collection. Tickets are available for purchase today, visit Filmlinc.com.
FILMS, DESCRIPTIONS & SCHEDULE
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1944, Japan, 35mm; 87m
Despite the strong pressure to make pro-military propaganda during the war, the authorities took one look at Kinoshita’s Army and knew exactly where his sentiments lay. The film looks at a family that for generations has produced military officers, but the values of tradition seem to serve no one well in contemporary Japan. With the outbreak of the war, attention falls on a representative of the youngest generation, a young man long plagued by ill health but who through great efforts grows strong enough to follow in his family’s footsteps. In a stunning final scene, the boy’s mother, the great Kinuyo Tanaka, sees him off to war, and the play of emotions across her face tell you all you need to know about Kinoshita’s attitude towards Japanese militarism. When it was announced that Kinoshita’s next film would be about the kamikazes, the authorities suggested perhaps another director would be more appropriate.
*THURS. NOV 8, 4:15PM; SAT. NOV 10, 6:45PM
The Ballad of Narayama/Narayama bushi ko
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1958, Japan, DCP; 98m
One of Kinoshita’s boldest films, The Ballad of Narayama features the combination of traditional kabuki theater with modern film technique. In a remote mountain village, the custom is to leave those who reach the age of 70 on the slopes of the mountain, so that precious resources can be directed to the young. As Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka) is approaching her destiny, her loving and dutiful son refuses to participate in the ritual, forcing Orin, who believes it must be done for the good of the community, decides to tak matters into her own hands. The movements are all stylized, the sets and lighting highly theatrical, to create the effect that the action is transpiring in some realm between actual history and myth. Names Best Japanese Film of 1958 by Kinema Junpo magazine.
*SUN. NOV 11, 7:00PM
Carmen Comes Home/Karmen Kyoko ne kaeru
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1951, Japan, DCP; 86m
The first color film ever shot in Japan, and still one of the most successful comedies ever made in the country, Carmen is a delightful musical satire about the fireworks set off when a local girl made good as a Tokyo stripper decides to pay a visit to the folks she left back home. Outraged by the clothes and looks of Carmen and her friend Akemi, the locals at first shun and ridicule the big-city girls, but when they put on a benefit to help support a local public school, both are instantly transformed into heroines. Hideo Takamine, who would later do such remarkable work for Mikio Naruse, shows herself to be equally adept at comedy, a commanding presence who can light up a stage with a musical number or the screen with her smile.
*WED. NOV 7, 6:15PM
Farewell to Spring/Sekishun-cho
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1959, Japan, 35mm; 102m
As Kinoshita grew older, his vision became progressively darker. Fond of stories that spanned many years, here he looks at the fate of a generation learning to accept compromise after life held out so much initial promise. Five young men, close friends since high school, reunite in their hometown after having been away for many years. Some have gone onto successful careers; others have pursued their dreams and failed. This brief respite in their hometown brings back their fond memories of earlier, simpler lives, yet all are eventually forced to admit that there really is no going back—the past, no matter how attractive, makes a poor guide for the future. Keiji Sata, a regular in Kinoshita’s films, here gives one of his very best performances.
*FRI. NOV 9, 2:15PM; MON. NOV 12, 6:30PM
Here’s to the Young Lady/Ojosan Kanpai
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1949, Japan, 35mm; 89m
One of the themes much favored by the film officials of the occupying US forces was anything that had to do with crossing class or other traditional social boundaries when it came to friendship or romance. As usual, Kinoshita both embraces this trend while lending it his own peculiar spin. A rising automobile magnate from a humble background is offered the hand of the daughter of a well-known aristocratic family. Flattered at first, the prospective groom is terrified to meet his possible future bride, until he learns that her family is in fact penniless, and is hoping to use his money to retain their privileged lifestyle. Ozu regular Setsuko Hara is luminous as the young woman, at first willing to sacrifice for her family but later deciding she must follow her heart’s calling; Shuji Sano plays her intended with just the right mix of awkwardness and sincerity.
*SAT. NOV 10, 4:45PM
A Japanese Tragedy/Nihon no higeki
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1953, Japan, 35mm; 116m
One of Kinoshita’s most beautiful films, as well as his perhaps his most critical, A Japanese Tragedy opens with a powerful montage of newsreel footage and newspaper headlines that illustrate the economic struggles of everyday people in postwar Japan. A war widow, Haruko (Yuko Mochizuki), works as a bar hostess in a rundown inn; eking out a meager living any way she can, she’s comforted with the thought that the two children she raised on her own are educated and successful. Yet her children are anything but grateful for all her sacrifices: son Seiichi seeks to remove himself from the family register so he can be adopted by a wealthy family, while daughter Utako selfishly squanders the money her mother sends each month. Using temporal shifts that interweave verité-styled flashbacks and actual newsreel footage within the fictional narrative, Kinoshita creates a relevant and insightful account of the personal toll of war and the slow, agonizing process of recovery.
*FRI. NOV 9, 8:30PM; WED. NOV 14, 3:30PM
Port of Flowers (a.k.a. Blossoming Port)/Hana saku minato
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1943, Japan, 35mm; 82m
With a substantial budget and a recognized cast, Kinoshita’s debut feature heralded the arrival of a major talent, as he deftly spins a droll comedy about a pair of misfit con men who try to defraud the residents of Kyushu port town. Posing as heirs to a defunct shipyard, they convince the townsfolk to help them re-build the business, but the city slicker façade starts to fade when one of them falls in love with a local girl. Port of Flowers can be seen as a virtual laboratory for so much of Kinoshita’s later work, as so many of his themes—the presence of comedy in the most unlikely situations, his overall faith in humanity’s goodness—are very much on display.
*THURS. NOV 8, 2:30PM; SUN. NOV 11, 9:00PM
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1948, Japan, 35mm; 77m
Once again hoping to challenge himself to adapt to a different cinematic style, Kinoshita asked his good friend Akira Kurosawa to write a screenplay for him. The result was The Portrait, a work which today feels like an interesting combination of both artists. For years the mistress of a very successful real estate broker, a woman (beautifully played by Kuniko Igawa) agrees to sit for a portrait to be painted by a penniless artist. In rendering her, the artist paints a portrait that depicts the woman as pure and honest; overwhelmed by the image, and her reflections on her own past, the woman decides to end her unsavory relationship to the broker and attempt to start a new life. Kurosawa’s powerful moments of self-discovery, such a staple of his work, are rendered here by Kinoshita with a quiet intensity.
*THURS. NOV 8, 8:45PM; TUES. NOV 13, 4:45PM
The River Fuefuki/Fuefuki gawa
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1960, Japan, 35mm; 117m
Again consciously moving outside of his comfort zone, Kinoshita took on the directing of a big-budget, medieval period epic—somewhat of a rarity in his home base, Shochiku, a studio known for its dedication to shomin-geki, or stories of everyday life. Yet while the battle scenes and historical detail are brilliantly executed, the focus in The River Fuefuki remains strongly on the internal dynamics of family life. When Sozo, the eldest son of a family of farmers, decides to become the retainer to a powerful warlord, his disappointed and fearful parents realize they have no other option than to let him go. But then the lure of military service begins to spread among their younger sons. The film carries an unmistakable anti-war message while detailing how the seeds of militarism in young people gradually take root and finally blossom. Kinoshita based the visual design of the film on scroll painting, capturing the sense of brushstrokes with wide swatches of color.
*MON. NOV 12, 4:00PM; TUES. NOV 13, 9:00PM
The Scent of Incense/Koge
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1964, Japan, 35mm; 201m
The success of The River Fuefuki encouraged Kinoshita to return to period filmmaking once again with this “epic” chamber drama about a geisha mother and her daughter. Based on the popular novel by Ariyoshi Sawako, the story begins as Ikuyo (Nobuko Otowa) is forced into prostitution from poverty; she soon becomes known as a woman who will agree to her clients’ basest desires. Although shielded from her mother’s profession, her daughter Tomoko (Mariko Okada) is deeply ashamed by her mother’s degradation—while still accepting her financial support. But when Mariko attracts the attention of a boy from a well-to-do family, the danger arises that he might discover Mariko’s secret. Kinoshita ventures into Mizoguchi territory here, with a decided difference: he never shies away from showing the harshness of a prostitute’s life. The two leads work beautifully together, capturing the closeness that still exists even in the most troubled relationship between a mother and her daughter.
*SUN. NOV 11, 1:00PM
Thus Another Day/Kyo mo mata kakute arinan
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1959, Japan, 35mm; 74m
Watching her husband grovel before and flatter his boss, a woman wonders what happened to the man she married. When the summer comes, they decide to rent out their house in the city and return to their family home in the country; there, the woman meets a lonely old man who seems to embody many of the qualities she now finds missing in her husband. Kinoshita returns to a full blown melodrama after a period of intense experimentation; again, the mood is darker than in his immediate postwar films, as the sense that there’s simply “no turning back” from the changes that have transformed Japanese life so decisively feels stronger than ever. The “salary man” character, embodied by the husband, is increasingly treated with disdain in Japanese cinema throughout this period.
*MON. NOV 12, 2:15PM; THURS. NOV 15, 6:15PM
Twenty-Four Eyes/Niju-shi no hotomi
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1954, Japan, 35mm; 162m
Chosen as Best Japanese Film of 1954 by Kinema Junpo magazine, beating out among other films The Seven Samurai, Twenty-Four Eyes is widely consider Kinoshita’s masterpiece, and remains as popular today with Japanese audiences as when first released. In 1928, a new teacher (Hideko Takamine, magnificent) arrives in a small seaside town; progressive and open-minded, she attempts to instill those same values in her students, even as the dark clouds of Japanese militarism start to affect so many aspects of daily life. Kinoshita’s film follows the teacher and her charges (the “twenty-four eyes” who were her students) for twenty years, into the postwar era, chronicling their struggles, joys, sorrows and hopes for the future. Susan Sontag included Twenty-Four Eyes in a series on “Best Japanese Films” she curated at the Japan Society shortly before her death.
*SAT. NOV 10, 8:45PM; THUR. NOV 15, 3:00PM
NEW 35MM PRINT!
Wedding Ring/Konyaku yubiwa
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1950, Japan, 35mm; 96m
Two of Japan’s finest actors, Kinuyo Tanaka and Toshiro Mifune, come together in this touching seaside melodrama beautifully photographed by Kinoshita’s regular cinematographer, Hiroshi Kusuda. Seeking a cure for her ailing husband, a woman who runs a successful jewelry business in Tokyo brings him to a new doctor outside the city. Her husband begins to recover, but the woman finds herself falling in love with the doctor. Kinoshita avoids big dramatic exchanges, preferring to chronicle the rising tensions among the three through quick glances or furtive gestures. Tanaka beautifully captures the contradictions of the wife, a woman who has made her own way in the world who can’t control or fully understand the emotions she’s suddenly feeling, while Mifune plays the doctor as volcano of energy threatening to explode at any moment.
*FRI. NOV 9, 4:30PM; MON. NOV 12, 8:45PM
NEW 35MM PRINT!
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1948, Japan, 35mm; 84m
After the great success of Morning for the Osone Family (sadly, not included in the series), Kinoshita felt more at liberty to experiment with film style and technique. In Woman, shot entirely on location in the seaside town of Atami, Kinoshita creates a bucolic paradise that serves as the unlikely setting for a steamy psychological thriller. A dance-hall girl is invited to a hot spring resort to meet with her former lover. He begs her to run away with him, but his passion hides a darker secret. A kind of odd variant on the popular postwar story about a woman attempting to free herself from the bonds of the past, Woman sets its increasingly desperate portrait of a lethal passion against the backdrop of a Japan trying to return to some kind of normalcy.
*FRI. NOV 9, 6:30PM; THURS. NOV 15, 1:00PM
You Were Like a Wild Chrysanthemum/Nogiku no gotoki kiminariki
Keisuke Kinoshita, 1955, Japan, 35mm; 92m
Masao (Ozu regular Chishu Ryu) returns to his hometown after a successful career in business; the visit prompt memories of the time right before he left to study, when as a young man he fell in love with Tamiko, a beautiful, high-spirited young woman who also loved him but whom he was forbidden to marry as his family—and especially his mother—already had plans for him. Kinoshita brilliantly captures the flush of young love, played out against stunning landscapes—a love made all the more poignant as we know it will remain unrequited. Film scholar Donald Richie called it “one of the most nostalgically beautiful of Kinoshita’s films.”
*WED. NOV 7, 8:15PM; SUN. NOV 11, 5:00PM
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Under the leadership of Rose Kuo, Executive Director, and Richard Peña, Program Director, the Film Society of Lincoln Center offers the best in international, classic and cutting-edge independent cinema. The Film Society presents two film festivals that attract global attention: the New York Film Festival, having just celebrated its 50th edition, and New Directors/New Films which, since its founding in 1972, has been produced in collaboration with MoMA. The Film Society also publishes the award-winning Film Comment Magazine, and for over three decades has given an annual award—now named “The Chaplin Award”—to a major figure in world cinema. Past recipients of this award include Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks. The Film Society presents a year-round calendar of programming, panels, lectures, educational programs and specialty film releases at its Walter Reade Theater and the new state-of-the-art Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
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