Friday, January 22, 2016


It goes to show. If you cut yourself off enough from the filth and depredations of our current century, occasionally you'll lose touch with the glories of past centuries.

Setsuko Hara died last September. I learned of her death this week. She was 95 and passed never having been seen again by the world outside the Shinto temple she retired to in 1963. Hara was the great female star of Japanese movies through the 40s, 50s, and early-60s; but when her mentor (she was his muse) Yasujiro Ozu died in December '63, Hara disappeared into the mists of incomparable moments forever untouched by age, earthly corruptions, or movie marketeering.

For Ozu, she was everything female, aside from sex: sorrow, gentleness, longing, heartbreak, the disappointments of the world. She was also great for Kinoshita and Naruse and Kurosawa, who all saw her more as a flesh-and-blood postwar Japanese woman, someone who ate, felt bitterness, could be petty and deceptive, and actually kissed. Of all the major directors from Japan's golden age, only Mizoguchi never used her. Hara would have melted under his fire.

Her greatest film and perhaps the greatest film from the golden age not directed by Mizoguchi.