Films: Rare Imports: The Makioka Sisters

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Rare Imports: The Makioka Sisters  {Sasame-yuki}

Rare Imports: The Makioka Sisters

Japan, 1983, 140 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Asian, Drama, Family Issues, Japan
Programs: Contemporary World Cinema, Focus on Japanese Cinema, Art, & Culture
Language: Japanese English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Kon Ichikawa
Editor: Chizuko Nagata
Screenwriter: Kon Ichikawa
Cinematographer: Kiyoshi Hasegawa
Principal Cast: Keiko Kishi, Yoshiko Sakuma, Sayuri Yoshinaga, Yuko Kotegawa
US Distributor: Janus Films

The fading fortunes of the titular siblings are apparent from the start of Kon Ichikawa’s 1983 adaptation of Junichiro Tanizaki’s acclaimed novel. It’s 1938, and the four Makioka sisters, clad in traditional kimonos, bicker over money and the family pecking order over lunch. In that light, there’s considerable irony blurring the postcard imagery that follows, as we accompany the sisters in their near-ritualistic viewing of Kyoto’s cherry blossoms.

It quickly becomes clear that appearance and ritual count in the Makioka clan, especially for domineering oldest sister Tsuruko (Keiko Kishi), who seeks an appropriate husband for Yukiko (Sayuri Yoshinaga). Throw in old grudges around an elopement and a husband’s yearning for his his sister-in-law, and it’s no surprise relationships are strained—sometimes to the point of absurdity: one hapless suitor finds it necessary to bolster his chances with Yukiko by producing copies of his previous wife and child’s death certificates, proving their demises weren’t from hereditary disease. But such satire doesn’t diminish the emotional power of Ichikawa’s portrait of a family, if not a culture, relinquishing its hold on the past. —CLAY FONG

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