Till We Meet Again (Yuzo Kawashima, Japan, 1955)

 

I´m quickly becoming enthralled by Yuzo Kawshima´s portraits of social mores in post-war Japan. In Till We Meet Again, the problem is  the confrontation of divorce with patriarchy: ‘men only want to treat women as pets’ says Yachijo (Yumeji Tsukioka) to her father Kaji (So Yamamura). Kaji has been ignoring his wife Shigeno (Fukuko Sayo) since they got married. She´s taken refuge in her cat. Kaji himself has rescued a girl, Kyoko (Michiyo Aratama) from the red light district and set her up in a boutique: she´s in love with him but it´s not reciprocatedl His daughter Yachigo is unhappily married to Kappei (Tatsuya Mihashi) and she´s soon falling in love with a bumbling scientist she met on the train, Sone (Rentaro Mikuni).  Meanwhile Kappei himself will meet and fall in love with Kyoko. It´s a sexual roundelay shot  as a chamber-piece with modernity as a backdrop.

So far, so typical of 1950s melodramas. As you can see in the sub-titles of the images below, the phrases are stock ones we´ve seen and heard and been witness to dramatisations of all of our lives:

 

But it´s the treatment of these, the way they speak of modernity, westernisation, individual fulfilment against social conscription, the very idea that happiness matters, that is so beautifully realised here. The shots are all small scale, intimate, the camera holding characters against a background like in a trance as couples form, re-form, as individuals struggle between personal desires and social constraints, all done low-key, restrained, not contained, articulated but in a gentle fashion. All these characters want is to have someone to talk to and pierce through the isolation coupledom has enchained them in, to share, to be themselves, to be valued. The patriarch, who has always done what he wants, finds these concerns bewildering and unfathomable. But the younger generation will act on their desires, in a gentle way. I love the attention to detail in Kawashima´s films, the slow revelations, how they´re  feminist but tactful in their critiques. This is a lovely film and very moving.

Modernity vs Tradition:

José Arroyo

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