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May 17, 2006

A Hen in the Wind


Kaze no naka no mendori
Yasujiro Ozu - 1948
Panorama Entertainment Region 3 DVD

Of the half dozen or so films I've seen by Yasujiro Ozu, this may be the most unique. Taking place following World War II, the film is about a young mother whose soldier husband has not yet been repatriated. Selling old kimonos to scrape enough money for herself and her son, Tokiko is financially devastated when her son requires hospitalization for his illness. Refered to be several characters, but not seen, Tokiko turns to a one-time act of prostitution to cover her debts. Her husband, Shuichi returns soon after the son has recovered. Tokiko explains what happened to her less than understanding husband. While Shuichi can feel empathy towards another young woman in a similar situation, he is initially unforgiving of his wife.

Visually, the film has the classic hallmarks of an Ozu film. There are geometric patterns in the arrangement of three houses or shots looking through large, abandoned pipes. This particular area outside of Tokyo resembles a ghost town until the end of the film with no one on the streets save for Ozu's characters. The interior shots are identifiably Ozu's which is to say from the point of view of a person kneeling on a tatami mat.

Less typical of Ozu is the frankness of A Hen in the Wind. Even more than the illicit lovers of Tokyo Twilight, this is a film with some venal and cruel characters. Unlike the overly polite and frequently stoic Satsuko Hara taking care of Chishu Ryu, are characters who don't hide their feelings and express themselves in the bluntest terms. Conversely, when Shichi reunites with Tokiko and their son, the son is afraid of his father, and husband and wife do not touch each other in any way. Most atypical of Ozu is a scene where Shuichi throws Tokiko down a flight of stairs. His understanding of her situation at the time does not prevent his outburst, and even after Shuichi is aware of his action and runs down the stairs, he simply stands above his wife. Tokiko is seen standing on her own, limping back up the stairs. The finally shot is of the couple embracing, vowing to move forward and forget the past. Ozu focuses on Tokiko's arms, wrapped around Shuichi, her hands clasped as if in a form of prayer.

Posted by peter at May 17, 2006 06:04 PM