One of Kinoshita’s most beautiful films, as well as perhaps his most critical, A Japanese Tragedy opens with a powerful montage of newsreel footage and newspaper headlines that illustrate the economic struggles of everyday people in postwar Japan. A war widow, Haruko (Yuko Mochizuki), works as a bar hostess in a rundown inn; eking out a meager living any way she can, she’s comforted with the thought that the two children she raised on her own are educated and successful. Yet her children are anything but grateful for all her sacrifices: son Seiichi seeks to remove himself from the family register so he can be adopted by a wealthy family, while daughter Utako selfishly squanders the money her mother sends each month. Using temporal shifts that interweave verité-styled flashbacks and actual newsreel footage within the fictional narrative, Kinoshita creates a relevant and insightful account of the personal toll of war and the slow, agonizing process of recovery.
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