Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

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Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Oct 21, 2007 5:50 am

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Re: Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Oct 21, 2007 9:29 pm

TWENTY-FOUR EYES (Japan / 1954)



Despite the fact that he was one of the most prolific and beloved postwar filmmakers in Japan, Kinoshita Keisuke (1912-1998), much like Naruse Mikio, was a relatively unknown commodity in the west for a long period of time. While Kinoshita's 1958 effort, Ballad of Narayama, arguably remains his most famous work, Twenty-Four Eyes (Nijushi no hitomi), which not only finished first in Kinema Junpos 1954 poll but was recently selected as one of the greatest Japanese films of all-time by the country's critics, is his most lauded.

Set in a poor fishing village on the island of Shodoshima, the second largest in Japan's Seto Inland Sea, the film unfolds over an 18-year span, starting in 1928 as we witness a dozen first-graders (the "twenty-four eyes") encountering their "awfully modern" new teacher on her bike on the way to school. Exquisitely essayed by the great Takamine Hideko (who initially appears as if shes just wandered off a Naruse set), the bright, headstrong Miss Oishi also draws some attention due to her western attire (her suit, it turns out, was made from an old kimono, thus symbolizing her regard for traditions despite her novel appearance) and unorthodox teaching methods, but in a short period of time she finds a way to win the hearts and minds of her young pupils and their parents.

At once epic and intimate, Twenty-Four Eyes, like some of the best films of the past and present, is set to the indeterminate rhythms of life. And life, as it has a tendency to do, regularly intervenes in various forms, even shattering the hopes and ideals of those who at one point here seemed to be beyond it all. If the young girls in Oishis class are eventually affected by the indigenous customs and the worsening economy, the boys bear the brunt of the countrys aggressive war efforts in China (which the film critiques via Oishis pacifist stance, not to mention by placing an emphasis on folk songs and nursery rhymes instead of official patriotic jingles).

Kinoshita -- whose 1951 Takamine-starrer Carmen Comes Home was Japans first full-color motion picture -- was considered to be quite proficient at melodrama, and its not hard to see why. Even though the film contains enough hankie moments to satisfy the most hardcore of Oprah fans (the nickname of "cry-baby" is appropriately, and ironically, deployed for one character), it remarkably earns most of them. Meanwhile, making sure that the emotional toll doesnt become overbearing is Kinoshitas spacious mise-en-scne, featuring strikingly eloquent compositions (this 156-minute effort is also beautifully edited). Based on Tsuboi Sakae's 1952 novel of the same name, Twenty-Four Eyes is a lyrical and profoundly moving piece of work which is fully deserving of its place in Japanese cinema history.
arsaib4
 

Re: Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

Postby wpqx » Tue Oct 23, 2007 2:17 am

I found this film far too long and a bit of a let down considering some of the praise I heard of it.
wpqx
 

Re: Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Oct 23, 2007 3:58 am

First of all, I'm pleasantly surprised that you've seen it; I hadn't come across anyone who was even familiar with it. As I've stated before, it's difficult to argue regarding how one feels about a film's running-time. But what are some of the other issues you had with the film?
arsaib4
 

Re: Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Oct 26, 2007 12:06 am

Contrary to "popular" belief, Twenty-Four Eyes has been available in the U.S., on VHS (Sony).

HK distributor Panorama released a Region-0/NTSC DVD of the film back in 2003. It's affordable, but the transfer isn't very good, especially when compared to Eureka/MoC's Region-2/PAL disc which was issued in 2006.
arsaib4
 

Re: Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

Postby hengcs » Fri Oct 26, 2007 4:38 am

I have the HK version.
hee hee
hengcs
 

Re: Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Oct 27, 2007 4:56 pm

Me, too. I've had it for over a year now. It was only slightly better than the available VHS. But once I came across the U.K. edition, there wasn't "much of a comparison" (DVDBeaver).

Do share your thoughts on the film once you've seen it.
arsaib4
 

Re: Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

Postby wpqx » Mon Oct 29, 2007 4:18 am

I saw it on VHS and the transfer was ok. I can't remember too much but the film seemed to drag on and on and on. There are a few Japanese films from this era with a rather slow pace and this could have been 30 minutes shorter.
wpqx
 

Re: Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Nov 01, 2007 9:02 pm

THE MISTRESS (Japan / 1953)



The Mistress (Gan) is based on a classic autobiographical novel by Mori Ogai, an important Japanese author from the Meiji period (1868-1912) whose work (a short story) was also responsible for Mizoguchis acclaimed Sansho the Bailiff (1954). (The novels English title, Wild Geese, is also the secondary title of the film.) Assuredly directed by Toyoda Shir (1906-1977) -- a Toho mainstay who, after serving as an assistant and screenwriter to Shimazu Yasujiro (one of the initial masters of the shomin-geki), came into prominence with such films as Wakai hito (1937) and Kojima no haru (1940), Kinema Junpos best film of the year, but went on to helm more genre-related efforts like Illusion of Blood (1966) and Portrait of Hell (1969) -- The Mistress relates a poignant story of a woman who struggles for personal freedom in a patriarchal, tradition-bound society.

The role of our eponymous protagonist is delicately rendered by Takamine Hideko, who, as usual, is not necessarily beautiful in her suffering, but persevering, dedicated and intelligent (Catherine Russell). She had a distinctive propensity for underplaying the most dramatic of moments, which she does here with aplomb. Her Otama is the daughter of a poor and sickly candy-seller who is manipulated into a becoming a mistress of a recently widowed merchant (Tono Eijir) with promise of a future marriage. But once she discovers the true nature of her patron, her dream, not to mention her self-image, is shattered. Consequently, she finds herself drawn towards a young medical student (Akutagawa Hiroshi), whom she envisions as the only ray of hope in her despairing existence.

Through graceful camera-movements which defy the congested crassness of the lower-middle-class milieu (authentically captured by the art-direction of the great Kimura Takeo and Ito Kisaku, who also worked with Mizoguchi during the mid-50s), Toyoda draws a parallel with the plight of his own central character. The persistent presence of fog during the nighttime sequences serves as a metaphor for the indeterminate social environment of the late Meiji-era. The western-influenced score of Dan Ikuma is appropriately deployed. Alongside the likes of Nomura Yoshitaro, Uchida Tomu, Kinoshita Keisuke, etc., Toyoda could perhaps be considered as someone who may not have been consistently great, but nonetheless produced films that qualified as such. The Mistress is one of them.

__________________________
arsaib4
 

Re: Takamine: Twenty-Four Eyes (1954) & The Mistress (1953)

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 6:56 am

To the best of my knowledge, The Mistress isn't available on subtitled DVD at this point. But the film was issued in the U.S. on VHS by Embassy Home Ent. a few years back.
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