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  • A sensitive and powerful examination of the moral compromises made during World War II and the toll they take on families. Kinuyo Tanaka gives another of her sensitive and compelling performances as a woman forced into prostitution to care for her sick child, and is unable to keep her secret when her husband returns from the front. Ozu takes on the topic of prostitution while steering well clear of its potential for sordidness (something I find both a virtue and a limitation... in some ways it's *too* tactful). The scenes between the two exceptional leads contribute to a film blessed with some of the most uncomortable scenes Ozu has filmed, delving deep into raw unresolved emotions of guilt, honor and devotion.
  • Kaze no Naka no Mendori deals with a very serious social problem of the time -- the return of those away at war. Frequently supposed dead and often delayed by years after the war's end, returning soldiers came back to families that had had to make all manner of compromises and sacrifices related to their absence. Often the returnees found that their wives had re-married, or worse...

    This is one such story. Unusual for Ozu in that it depicts actual physical family violence. A bit shocking if you are used to his other films, in which disapproval is often expressed with raised eyebrows and silence.

    A good film with fine performances.
  • In postwar Japan, a wife has to deal with the consequence of her decision when she needed her son's hospital charges during her husband's absence. The theme, women's harsh reality at the time, is exceptionally serious for Ozu. It makes Hen in the Wind uniquely and intensely emotional, combined with Ozu's style, such as off-screen actions, implicative montages, and singsong dialogues.
  • "Record of a Tenement Gentleman" is Ozu's actual first post-war movie, but while it is set in a post-war environment it still relied a lot in his themes of family, father/mother and son, family love that Ozu had always explored, rather than discussing questions from a post-war society.

    "A Hen in the Wind" does that. It offers a true war/post-war situation and deals with the people that suffer from it.

    The story is quite simple and I've found some of his other movies to be more emotional. However, it is one of his most serious and violent. I do think Ozu is capable of adding more depth to his movies than what we see here, but I was very happy to find a different subject from what he does usually, explored in a such disturbing way. Ozu's themes are pretty much the same all over his work, but "A Hen in the Wind" stands out for a different kind of serious issue. It is, for that, very refreshing.

    Very serious, very sad, very human, unexpectedly violent and a touching look at a post-war situation, it stands out mostly for being different from Ozu's usual themes.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "A Hen In the Wind" {1948} is quite a dark film and the gloomy mood is emphasised by the shots of post-war Japan with its poverty and slummy areas--the environment in which the events take place. It is this environmental context which focuses the moral ambiguities explored in the film.

    A crucial conflict is created when a young wife, Tokiko Amamiya {Kinuyo Tanaka} accepts a once-off job as a prostitute to get the money to save the life of her young son. She finds the experience deeply shaming and the money attained, she never returns to the brothel.

    However, when her husband, Shuichi, {Shûji Sano} returns from the army, she confesses to him what she did. The knowledge causes him to fall into a deep depression and generates an unforgiving fury. Later he visits the brothel {to see if indeed his wife had worked there on only one occasion} and meets a young girl who tells him why she feels forced into the trade. Strangely, the husband feels compassion for the girl and even gets her a job to get her out of prostitution.

    I say "strangely" because even Shuichi's co-worker finds it odd that he can measure the girl by one standard and his wife by another. That he cannot realise that under terrible conditions, human fallibility may cause one to do what would normally seem unthinkable. Finally in a rage, he causes his wife to fall down a flight of stairs--and the shock seems to bring him to his senses. Thus the film does have a final uplifting moment with the reconciliation--but the basic problem is not solved; it is only resolved in this specific context.

    The wife may seem rather like a door-mat to a modern audience but remember that the position of women in pre-war Japan was not particularly liberated. Given that, I think that Kinuyo Tanaka creates a gentle and realistic character. It seems that Ozu did not particularly like this film and considered it a failure--perhaps owing to the melodramatic plot and the difficulty of creating a convincing character for the husband who seems incapable of seeing the moral contradiction in his attitudes.

    Personally, I liked "A Hen In the Wind" because it did honestly engage with the problems with making a moral decision in an extreme situation and the need for self-awareness, honesty and charity.
  • kerpan22 May 2003
    Ozu's late film are far more varied than "common wisdom" would have it -- but, by any measure, "Hen in the Wind" (from 1948) is especially "atypical". This is the only Ozu film I've seen (out of 21 or 20) that has a tangible (and even raw) physicality -- it is more like proto-Imamura than "standard" Ozu (no -- Imamura was not yet working as Ozu's assistant -- that only began around 1951). Characters crawl, slither, and slide about. Sometimes, visually oversized bare feet stick into the foreground. Kinuyo Tanaka loses all self possession at the climax, and practically keens her dialog -- at a much higher pitch than I've ever heard her use in any other film.

    This is an interesting story that deals with the collateral damage caused by WW2 (and the ensuing occupation) -- as it affected the lives of one young married couple. It was a flop with the audience, I guess -- so it became a path not traveled further. Artistically, it may not be completely successful, but it was a worthy effort.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Kinuyo Tanaka's son is sick, her husband, Shuji Sano, is still in the army, and the hospital demands payment in advance. She's just sold her last good outfit to make the month's rent in the inflationary, black-market sinkhole that Post-War Japan is. So she sells the only thing she has to sell, and her son gets better. Then Sano returns, and she tells him what she did. His attitude being the masculine "You can't sell what's mine!" He walks out -- he's got money, sliding back into his Pre-war job, where there's plenty of money.

    I think that Ozu is playing with subtexts here about Post-War Japan. When his character says "Okay, I know I did a very stupid thing. Can we get over it and move on with our life together?" I think he's talking about the last twenty or so years of Japanese history like it's an Oops! moment. That's why the shift in his symbols. In Ozu's early comedies, there is a lot of industrial parts on the ground where the children play, symbols of Japan's growing industrial might and a hopeful future. Here, what there is of it is absolute junk. The apartment in which Tanaka lives with her boy, waiting for her husband to return, is a thing of shreds and patches, but there's running water and there's electricity. Across the street are empty gas tanks that slowly and erratically fill as the movie progresses. "Come," says Sano at the end, "Let's put the past behind us, and live our lives with love and joy."

    And Ozu made comedies about families coping with a changing Japan for the rest of his career, with occasional pauses to remake FLOATING WEEDS.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is the most serious and sad of all Ozu's films I have seen. The plot is simple: the wife named Tokiko (played by meek and moving Kinuyo Tanaka) tries hard to survive in the post-war Japan with her little son, while her beloved husband is still absent. One bad day her son gets seriously ill, and Tokiko has to sell her body (just once) to pay for his medical treatment. When her husband finally returns and finds out what's happened (in fact she told him herself being too honest to keep that shameful secret), he's not inclined to forgive her and gives her very hard time, scolding her and even beating her while she is as meek and obedient as she always has been. The reconciliation happens only when he almost kills Tokiko (unintentionally, of course) and being shocked (for a very brief moment) he understands that he'd better forgive his wife in the name of the happier future.

    There are some crucial moral dilemmas showing the total lack of compassion and respect to women in those days. 1. Was Tokiko really that guilty? For a modern point of view, even Japanese, the wife has done nothing wrong. Survival at all costs is a respected thing today, not like in old Japan where men and women easily killed themselves to avoid dishonor that was considered much worse than death. In this movie, Tokiko mentions the suicidal thoughts too. But being eager to see her husband again, she continues living - for him and for their child. She doesn't care for her own survival, but she's ready to sacrifice herself for her child. No one around her seems to be able to understand it, neither her best friend nor her husband.

    2. What's the right of Tokiko's husband to blame her? As much as we can see, the husband does nothing for Tokiko and the boy - he does not send any money to her, probably thinking she is a magician able to make money out of nothing or turn things to gold by a single touch. When she tells him how did she get money to pay to the doctor (another totally immoral thing considered pretty normal by those people, is the need to pay for the treatment of a little ailing child - no cash, no help, who cares if this child will not survive) he seems to be pretty surprised she could not just borrow the money from someone. Well, she did it before. And she has already sold her clothes and any valuables she could sell except her sewing machine she needed to continue working. If her husband wouldn't come that day, probably she'd have to go to the brothel again, or just die. Simply as that.

    3. Is it normal to make the weak suffer even more?! When after the climactic quarrel the husband lashes Tokiko away making her fall the stairs barely escaping death or serious injury, he seems to be shocked for a while (probably realizing he'll go to the jail if she dies) - but what does he say or do when realized she's alive and able to move? He just lets her to climb painfully up the stairs back to the room, while he's just sitting there in a corner with a sulky face, ready to say some lofty words about trust and understanding they need to keep in their family. Why the hell didn't he help her up the stairs? Why didn't he run to her headlong begging for forgiveness? But here we have only one character to beg and plead, and this is certainly not the husband. Because of his wife "treason", he believes he is "suffering", his friend believes it too, even Tokiko's friend (the one that blamed her harshly for selling herself and then for revealing it to the husband) believes the husband, not the wife, is the sufferer here. Even Tokiko herself thinks the same way. But isn't she suffering way more than her man?

    Ozu is deeply sympathetic to Tokiko but neither husband nor friends look enough compassionate to her case... That makes the viewer feel very sad for her and for the same fate many real women suffered in real life. Times have changed a lot, and happily in the most civilized countries women are considered to be equal to men, but watching the old movies regarding the sad fate of meek and submissive female characters oppressed by men, we have to remember as it was before to never let anything like that happen here again.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A HEN IN THE WIND (KAZE NO NAKA NO MENDORI). Viewed on Streaming. Director Yasujiro Ozu's (also credited as a co-writer) melodramatic tale of poverty and domestic violence set in the early post Pacific War years. It's the standard good-wife-bad-husband plot device. This time it involves a woman awaiting her husband's return from the military while living with her young child in upstairs rooms rented from a working class family, and barely surviving as a some-time dress maker and by selling off her meager possessions. She reaches the point of deciding which of her last possessions to sell: a sewing machine (the source of her livelihood) or herself (which she chooses). When the cold-hearted husband returns (sans even a small gift or an emotional embrace) after an absence of several years, he promptly interrogates his wife about how she has survived (she blabs), rapes her, throws her down a flight of stairs, gives his money to a young hooker promising to find her a job, and otherwise exhibits every indication of planning to abandon his wife and child (which he likely does right after the closing credits!). First off, there is the choice of film title. It might have meant something to contemporary audiences, but looks plain weird today. Perhaps it symbolizes the piece-by-piece selling of just about everything to survive like the loss of a bird's feathers (or a plucked chicken)? Ozu's direction is lethargic (except for scenes of wife abuse). Leading actress Kinuyo Tanaka appears a bit too old to be playing the young-mother character. The child actor appears to be mostly comatose even when not playing sick. Leading actor Shuji Sano is miscast as a slum-dwelling, perfectly-groomed "pretty boy" prone to mugging. Even usually excellent character actor Chishu Ryu seems to be struggling with weak lines and direction. The Director's trademarks are much in evidence: lots of underwear on clotheslines; trains often seen or heard; plenty of static shots that look like (maybe are?) photographs; etc. Sound is a mixed bag with apartment scenes sounding like there is a cement mixer in the background. Score consists of limp-violin orchestrations. Restoration is not great with many grayed-out scenes. Cinematography (narrow-screen, grey and white) is okay, but lighting continuity is uneven and scenes can be under lit. Subtitles are sometimes too long and need reduction editing. Unless you are an Ozu cultist, skip this dud. WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD. Details: streaming (FilmStruck) = 8 stars; cinematography (narrow screen, grey and white) = 6 stars; lighting = 5 stars; restoration = 4/5 stars; direction = 4/5 stars; performances = 4/5 stars; subtitles = 4/5 stars; score = 3 stars.