This Trailer Thursday’s selection was made with our participation in Wildgrounds’ Japanese Film Blogathon in mind, which is also somewhat irrelevant because I probably would have chosen a Japanese film anyway. This goal of this week’s selection, though, was to choose a film that represents the pinnacle of Japanese filmmaking which meant no short list of potential options. Fellow Westerners such as myself might have immediately chosen Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, Ozu’s Tokyo Story, or any number of other classic films by venerated filmmakers of either of the golden ages of Japanese film leading up to the 1960’s.
Sure enough, my selection is from that era, but a film from a filmmaker that many Westerners tend to overlook, Keisuke Kinoshita’s Twenty-Four Eyes.
It’s a wonder why Kinoshita’s work is not very well known in the West, even his The Ballad of Narayama (1958) is frequently overlooked in favor of Shohei Imamura’s 1983 version. Kinoshita, however, is well-loved in his native country and Twenty-Four Eyes is considered his masterwork.
The film is about a school teacher, Hisako (Hideko Takamine), sent to a rural community on Shodoshima to teach a class of first graders. At first, her manner of dress and teaching style brand her as an outsider, but her perseverance and an injury-causing incident endear her to the community. From that point, the movie follows her students as they grow up from the 1920’s through the end of the Second World War and chronicles both their physical and mental maturity and the eventual toll that the war has on all of them.
The trailer used in this article is unfortunately not the theatrical version (incidentally, Masters of Cinema is essentially the Criterion Collection of the UK), but does capture the beauty of the film both in its rural setting and melodrama. The music also heightens the beauty. In the film, a mixture of Western (“Auld Lang Syne”, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”) and Japanese musics are used to highlight and make nostalgic the passage of time.