VOX POPULI: Intriguing, captivating … Setsuko Hara was not just a pretty face

27 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Remembering Japan’s Garbo.

Hara was 37 when she told an esteemed academic in a one-on-one magazine interview in 1957, “Men may not exactly regard women as pets, but they are definitely partial to women who are cute and sweet.” Big-boned for a Japanese woman of her generation, Hara griped that men often thought she was giving them a dressing-down even when she felt sure that her eyes were gentle and kind. 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.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.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.

Hara may have been half joking, but I find it quite interesting that these remarks simply did not match the persona she projected on the silver screen–a classical Japanese woman, demure and chaste. 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.

I am sure many old fans remember her as such from the roles she played in films directed by Yasujiro Ozu, including the 1953 classic “Tokyo Story.” In the Akira Kurosawa film “Hakuchi” (The Idiot), she was completely convincing in her role as a femme fatale with a heart of ice. Hara had been in hospital since mid-August and her death on September 5 from pneumonia was not immediately made public “as she wished no fuss be made”, her 75-year-old nephew told Kyodo News agency.–AFP 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). 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. 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. Hara once told The Asahi Shimbun that she loved tear-jerker movies. “You watch them and bawl your eyes out, and that leaves you more beautiful afterward, including your face,” she said. “I mean it. 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.

It’s true.” At the end of the 1957 magazine interview mentioned above, she laughed at her own outlandish comment: “You know, I would like boys to be born from men, literally.” Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. 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. Hara was widely admired for her ability to convey the interior life of seemingly ordinary characters who exemplified archetypes of Japanese womanhood.

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. 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. 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. 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. Renowned for her singular beauty as well as her acting skills, she shot to stardom after appearing in “Kochiyama Soshun,” a 1936 film directed by Sadao Yamanaka. 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. The plan, which will start next year at the earliest, was announced Nov. 25 by Tadashi Yanai, the chairman and president of Uniqlo’s operator Fast Retailing Co. “Besides waiting for the governments and the United Nations to solve the (global refugee) issue, I believe private-sector businesses and individuals should also deal with (the support),” Yanai said at the news conference. Hara’s six movies for Ozu was “Late Spring” (1949), in which she starred opposite Chishu Ryu as a reluctant bride deeply connected to her to widowed father.

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.

In Ozu’s “Early Summer” (1951), she again plays opposite Ryu as her father, this time boldly selecting a widowed neighbor as her husband despite her family’s objections. Hara’s quintessential role was as the young widow who treats her aging in-laws more kindly and respectfully than their biological children do in “Tokyo Story” (1953), Ozu’s best-known film.

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. 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. 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. 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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