A HEN IN THE WIND
Homefront wife and mother in World War ll Japan
As always Ozu is in firm control of his material; but here the material is strikingly melodramatic as well as considerably extended beyond the thematic and emotional stakes at hand. A wife on the World War ll homefront is struggling financially, caring for a sick son. She puts in one night at a geisha house to have money for medical bills. When her soldier husband finally returns, her guilt makes her confess; and he finds that he cannot forgive her.
Even with this unoriginal tale, Ozu offers two surprises. When during a quarrel the wife falls down a long flight of stairs, the husband runs to be sure she is not seriously hurt. But he does not help her up, and when she is finally able to get herself back upstairs she finds him just as he has been for many days, sitting with his back to her.
Another surprise: When the husband, trying to learn more about what happened while he was away, visits the geisha house that she told him about, he is moved by the very young woman sent to him. He simply gives her some money and leaves. The woman later comes upon him, sitting pensively by a body of water nearby. She approaches him — we think, to thank him. But she berates him and spews out contempt for the male sex.
A young Chishu Ryu is fine as the soldier husband’s homefront boss.
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MR. DEATH, the rise and fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.
From Errol Morris this is a surprisingly typical American documentary. Over-the-top heavy with words. The few moments of silence are punctuated with irrelevant visuals (what’s gliding past car or plane windows) that feel like padding and contribute to that deadly impression of illustrated lecture. This depiction of two Holocaust deniers is always interesting as subject but — given such a subject — disappointingly bland as cinema.
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Always VIVIEN LEIGH Always
I was rereading an article about Tennessee Williams in a Horizon magazine from April, 1980 and found this: “Jessica Tandy was a magnificent Blanche DuBois; but the part was to belong indelibly to Vivien Leigh, who…gave one of the finest screen performances ever recorded in the 1951 film.” This fitting tribute is marred by the fact that the caption under the accompanying still from the film misspells the actress’ name. I invite all readers to join me in a worldwide campaign to get ViviEn Leigh’s name spelled correctly. (“Tennessee Williams’ New Lady” by Peter Buckley, Horizon, April, 1980. The article is about Williams’ play Clothes for a Summer Hotel but discusses several Williams’ heroines.)
NEXT FRIDAY POST May 2
See you at the movies,