A Hen in the Wind, 1948

A somber, bleak, and uncharacteristically violent Ozu postwar film, A Hen in the Wind follows the plight of a dressmaker named Tokiko (Kinuyo Tanaka) who lives meagerly as a boarder in a modest house in a working class district with her young son Hiroshi. Awaiting her husband’s repatriation from Manchuria, Tokiko subsists through dressmaking and the occasional sale of household possessions. Despite their continued hardship, increasing poverty (due to rampant inflation and scarcity of goods), and uncertainty over her husband’s return, Tokiko has resisted the temptation to work in a brothel in order to earn extra money. However, when Hiroshi unexpectedly falls ill, Tokiko is compelled to sacrifice her dignity in order to tender payment for accrued medical expenses. Paralleling Tokiko’s desperate act with the reluctant livelihood of a young prostitute, Ozu forms an austere perspective of postwar Japanese life that is harrowing and life-affirming, tragic and hopeful, compassionate and indicting.

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