The Munekata Sisters, 1950

The film follows the plight of the upper beautiful, middle-class Munekata sisters – the conservative and traditional married older sister, Setsuko (Kinuyo Tanaka) (dressed in a kimono) and the liberal minded and free-spirited younger sister Mariko (Hideko Takamine) (dressed in Western attire) – as they struggle to build a new life in postwar Tokyo away from their beloved, ailing father (Chishu Ryu) by running a small bar. While visiting the temples of Kyoto, Setsuko remembers happier times with a former suitor named Hiroshi (Ken Uehara), a nostalgic sentiment that the more forward-minded Mariko begins to encourage her to act on by expressing her contempt for Setsuko’s unemployed, hard-drinking husband (Masayuki Mori). Cultivating a friendship with the charming Hiroshi, now a successful furniture maker in Kobe, Mariko attempts to reunite the unrequited lovers. Ozu juxtaposes the serene and contemplative images of Kyoto (the ancient capital of Japan) with the progressive and modernized (and industrialized) images of Tokyo and Kobe in order to illustrate the dichotomy and cultural conflict between tradition and modernity in postwar Japan.

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