• Kyoto, My Mother's Place

    Kyoto, My Mother's Place

    ★★★★½

    As much a portrait of his mother—who, as it is eventually revealed, was not a Kyoto native—as it is a document of the former imperial capital's sociocultural and historical ethos, this intimate and poignant work by Nagisa Ôshima also traces the roots of his own conflicting views about the place which had a formative influence on his life and art.

    Judiciously employing old photographs, classical paintings, kabuki art, interviews with his maternal uncle and his mother's Kyoto-born highschool friends, and…

  • 100 Years of Japanese Cinema

    100 Years of Japanese Cinema

    ★★★★

    This may come as a surprise to some, especially Jonathan Rosenbaum who found it "comical" that he was assigned the task in the first place, but Nagisa Ôshima was an ideal candidate to helm this entry in the British Film Institute's The Century of Cinema series. Oshima covers quite a bit of ground and somehow manages to include all the important names in the history of Japanese cinema. This is a must-see!

  • The End of Summer

    The End of Summer

    ★★★★★

    One of the three postwar films Yasujirô Ozu made at a studio other than Shochiku, The End of Summer does contain a few unique elements.

    First and foremost, there's the casting: while there are a few Ozu regulars in the movie, it also features Toho mainstays such as Michiyo Aratama, Keiju Kobayashi, and the irrepressible Reiko Dan, who is perfectly believable as someone who would go out on a date, with a gaijin no less, while her (possible) father is…

  • Early Spring

    Early Spring

    ★★★★★

    Essentially the last of Ozu's marriage-related films (as in films about couples), Early Spring is among the finest I have seen in this sub-genre. Few films have better articulated the minutiae of a slowly eroding marriage, and even fewer have been expansive enough to simultaneously include the realities of the world beyond it—in this case the mundane nature of workplace life—in order to depict its reciprocal effects. At times the film plays like a a more exhaustive version of Naruse's…

  • Still Walking

    Still Walking

    ★★★★★

    While this masterpiece, and one of the greatest contemporary Japanese films, does share certain formal and thematic similarities with the work of Yasujirô Ozu, its emotional tone and characterizations fall somewhere close to the work of another Japanese master, Mikio Naruse. Like Naruse's films, and unlike Ozu's, there's no abstractness here, as characters are more than willing to make their presence felt in one way or another. Moreover, the older generation in this film is not treated with the sort…

  • Twenty-Four Eyes

    Twenty-Four Eyes

    ★★★★★

    This may come as a surprise to some but Keisuke Kinoshita is one of the mot popular classical-era directors in Japan and Twenty-Four Eyes is truly considered a cinematic classic in the country. And Hideko Takamine's Ôishi-sensei character in this movie remains her most beloved. Speaking of which, Ôishi may be modern and headstrong but, unlike, say, Setsuko Hara's Yukie in Kurosawa's No Regrets for Our Youth, she is not a radical. Her approach as to how to make a…

  • When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

    When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

    ★★★★½

    One of my favorite Naruse films, featuring a remarkable performance by the great Hideko Takamine. While she was capable of being as endearingly expressive as a Barbara Stanwyck or a María Félix, to name two of her equally gifted classical-era counterparts from abroad, she also often showed that she could be just as subtle and restrained as the best of them—as she does here, conveying her character's underlying emotions and feelings with the most minute of gestures. And the film matches her quiet, graceful elegance with its austere tone and disposition, aided in part by a smart, jazzy xylophone score.

  • Tokyo Story

    Tokyo Story

    ★★★★★

    One of the greatest films ever made. This is why cinema exists.