Setsuko Hara, Japanese movie star of exquisite power, dies at 95

27 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Remembering Japan’s Garbo.

TOKYO:- The Japanese actress who starred in famed director Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” and a host of other classic films has died aged 95 — with the news only emerging nearly three months after her passing. Japan Prime Minister Debuts New Social Programs to Help Economy: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday he would increase spending on social programs and raise the minimum wage as he tries to jump-start the flagging economy ahead of an election next summer.

Near the beginning of Akira Kurosawa’s 1951 adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” two characters, played by Toshiro Mifune and Masayuki Mori, stop during a snowfall to look at a photograph of the movie’s femme fatale.The actress, born Masae Aida in Yokohama, had been a virtual recluse since her retirement in 1962, and news of her death only reached the public when her family made the announcement, as Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported Wednesday.TOKYO — Setsuko Hara, the muse of Yasujiro Ozu as well as other directors of Japanese cinema’s 1950s and ’60s Golden Age, died on September 5 of pneumonia in a hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture, according to Japanese press reports.

The death of Setsuko Hara dominated Japanese front pages on Thursday, with headlines lauding her as a “legendary” performer and the “Eternal Madonna”. Japan Saying Sayonara to Long Hours at the Office: The lights aren’t burning so late at some of Japan’s workplaces, as more and more workers trade in notoriously long hours at the office for flexible workdays, smartphones and telecommuting. She made her debut as an actress in the 1930s, but rose to prominence after World War II working with film master Yasujiro Ozu, most notably on Tokyo Story. Hara’s most famous part was of a widow who is kind toward her dead husband’s parents after they are snubbed by their own children in the widely celebrated “Tokyo Story,” a 1953 film by Ozu. Among these, her most well-known and highly regarded performance was her portrayal of the grieving widow Noriko — the name of a number of her characters in Ozu’s films — who takes care of her dead husband’s parents in Tokyo Story (1953).

She seems very unhappy.” As they continue to stare, a surprised Mifune asks Mori, “Why are you crying?” Mori says he doesn’t know: “I was just looking at her picture, and—” That short exchange, though not intended to convey meaning beyond the film, mirrors Ms. These included The Daughter of the Samurai (New Earth), a German-Japanese co-production directed by Mansaku Itami and Arnold Fanck that was designed to strengthen ties between the soon-to-be wartime allies. A poll of noted regional film-makers and international critics published last month at the Busan International Film Festival rated the drama as the best Asian film of all time.

In Ozu’s Late Spring (1949) and Early Summer (1951), she played a modest and elegant woman in movies that tackled the issue of fraying family bonds as Japan’s economy rapidly modernised. She died Sept. 5, a relative announced Nov. 25, but in keeping with her nature as a recluse for more than half a century, her death was not immediately announced in accordance with her wishes “not to make a big deal.” She had been hospitalized in the prefecture since mid-August and a funeral service was held in private, the relative explained. Hara was widely admired for her ability to convey the interior life of seemingly ordinary characters who exemplified archetypes of Japanese womanhood.

In the postwar period, with directors such as Akira Kurosawa and Keisuke Kinoshita, Hara portrayed modern women unbound by shackles of feudal mores, with critics making comparisons to Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford. Hara – who reportedly never married and was known in Japan as the “Eternal Virgin” – abruptly withdrew from the movie industry at age 42 after her last film in 1962. Yet she continued to bewitch cinéastes, first through art-house revivals of her many celebrated films and then thanks to the continuing expansion of home-video options. Many of them struggled with tensions between the desire for an independent life and traditional societal boundaries and family demands.She undertook so many demure or long-suffering roles that she was dubbed “the eternal virgin.” “Every Japanese actor can play the role of a soldier and every Japanese actress can play the role of a prostitute to some extent,” he once said. “However, it is rare to find an actress who can play the role of a daughter from a good family.” After making her cinematic debut at 15, Ms.

In her films with Ozu, such as “Late Spring” (1949), “Early Summer” (1951) and “Tokyo Story” (1953), she also embodied more traditional virtues, including a willingness to sacrifice for the well-being of others. In retirement, she lived in a house near her relatives in Kamakura, a scenic seaside city south of Tokyo that once served as Japan’s mediaeval capital. Hara became a household name two years later with “The New Earth” (1937), a bizarre melange of melodrama and propaganda made by a team of German and Japanese filmmakers.

But in a rare interview with a newspaper in 1992, she played down her accomplishments as one of Japan’s foremost actresses during what some herald as a golden age of cinema for the country. In addition to the series of finely observed dramas she made with Ozu in the 50s, she played the female lead in Kurosawa’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot in 1951, and her final role, in the samurai epic Chūshingura, directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, in 1962. She continued her rise in nationalistic wartime fare such as “The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya” (1942), a big-budget spectacle that recreated battles such as the Pearl Harbor attack, and “Toward the Decisive Battle in the Sky” (1943). Following the war, she made an indelible impression in Kurosawa’s “No Regrets for Our Youth” (1946), a character study tracing the decade-long evolution of a bourgeois 1930s schoolgirl into a strong-willed woman who goes to extremes to live on her own terms. Donald Richie, the American-born critic who became an expert on Japanese movie culture, hailed her performance as “marvelously detailed and delicate.” She went on to make dozens of other films, including “A Ball at the Anjo House” (1947), which depicted the fall of an upper-crust family during the post-war American occupation and which won plaudits from Japanese critics as the year’s finest movie.

The Uniqlo clothing chain intends to hire 100 or so refugees at stores in Japan and abroad in a major expansion of its program of supporting the displaced people. A study in subtlety and restrained emotion, it charts the evolving relationship between a kindly, aging parent and his independent-minded daughter, whose betrothal he feels compelled to foster.

Hara has several extraordinary scenes, but the most memorable occurs at a Noh theater, when she suddenly realizes how much her life will change, a world of emotion unfolding on her perfect oval face. Her father orchestrates a ruse — a feigned romantic interest in a widow — so that his daughter will move on with her life. “Early Summer” again shows Ms.

Hara as a woman who defies societal and familial pressure to marry, rejecting a series of suitors and impulsively making a choice of her own. “Tokyo Story,” the masterpiece of the trio, cast Ms. Instead Ozu’s film is rich in moments that blend pathos with comic sweetness to unspool the major themes. “Yes, it is,” she replies with a wry grin. The contrast between the words and the expression evokes a truth uttered earlier by another character, “One mustn’t expect too much.” In the 1950s, Ms. Her four features for Naruse include “Repast” (1951) and “Sound of the Mountain” (1954), two movies in which she plays an unhappy wife whose small winces signify substantially larger pain.

Her last films for Ozu—the bittersweet comedies “Late Autumn” (1960) and “The End of Summer” (1961)—were her only color pictures for the filmmaker, and she assumed her most mature roles in them, portraying decorous, kimono-clad widows who dispense wisdom quietly. It was an abrupt and shocking move for an actress still in her career prime, and she offered little explanation beyond saying she had never much enjoyed making films. Though she was never as brash as Hepburn, as emotional as Magnani or as complicated as Moreau, she left a body of work no less distinguished than theirs.

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