The Makioka Sisters

This elegant, absorbing family saga is the return of the Golden Age-with a vengeance. Anyone who has seen Odd Obsession must immediately suspect the surface beauty of this onslaught of cherry blossoms, brocade kimonos, music, and endless matchmaking. It's a gorgeous movie, even a great movie, but not a nice movie. In other words, pure Ichikawa. Based on a Tanizaki novel, it chronicles four sisters in 1930s Osaka, scions of a once-wealthy shipbuilding family, now burdened with debts. The pressure is on the two unmarried sisters to marry soon and marry well. But Yukiko is a reticent and vaguely mysterious beauty who has rejected innumerable suitors, while Taeko's penchant for inappropriate men and desire for financial independence create a scandal. While the Makioka family tries to maintain a semblance of tradition in the face of encroaching Westernization, Japan is gearing up for a war that will render these concerns obsolete. “Beneath its delicate theme of evanescence is a hard, claustral tale of money (the first word uttered in the film) and social regulation” (James Quandt).

The Makioka Sisters is repeated on Friday, August 26.

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