Introduction by Paul Anderer, Mack Professor of Humanities and Professor of Japanese Literature, Columbia University
Akira Kurosawa’s first postwar film is a powerful denunciation of fascism and a hopeful celebration of democracy set amidst the political violence of the late 1930s. The film’s political stance hinges on the growth of Yukie Yagihara (Setsuko Hara), the daughter of a liberal college professor. She is caught between two potential lovers, one a timid liberal and the other a militant radical bent on action. Strong willed and equally opposed to the rising militarism of Japan, she chooses the latter and suffers greatly for it. When the war ends, she devotes herself with equal passion to democratizing Japan. The film is part and parcel of the Occupation’s efforts to promote democratic ideals, including anti-militarism, women’s rights and agrarian reform. Considering Setsuko Hara’s quite real contribution to the militarization of Japanese popular culture and the aestheticization of the beautiful death, Kurosawa’s casting is more than a little ironic. However, Hara’s portrayal of Yukie infuses the film with a curious ambivalence that makes the film’s politics less than straightforward—a point of debate for critics ever since the film was released.
1946, 110 min., 35mm, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. With Setsuko Hara, Susumu Fujita, Denjiro Okochi, Haruko Sugimura, Eiko Miyoshi, Aritake Kono.
$12/$9 Japan Society members, seniors & students
SPECIAL OFFER: Purchase tickets for at least 3 different films and receive $2 off each ticket when purchased together! Special offer available only Japan Society Box Office or by telephone at (212) 715-1258. Offer not available online.
Part of the 2015 Globus Film Series The Most Beautiful: The War Films of Shirley Yamaguchi & Setsuko Hara.
Stories from the War
Marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, Japan Society presents the Society-wide series Stories from the War. Encompassing theater performances, film screenings, lectures, panels and educational opportunities for young people, programming from January to August explores history and considers challenging issues that the U.S. and Japan faced surrounding WWII through a contemporary lens.
Stories from the Waris supported by a generous grant from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission.
- April 3, 2015
- 7:00 pm