“The Makioka Sisters,” “The Eel,” “Maboroshi” and “Tasogare Seibei” will be shown at Southeast Missouri State University as part of an International Film Festival scheduled for Feb. 24-March 6.
The festival is sponsored by International Programs at Southeast with the support of Biokyowa, Inc. The four-part series is free and open to the public. The four-part series begins Feb. 24 with “The Makioka Sisters,” which will be shown from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in Scully 418. The series continues Feb. 25 with “The Eel,” showing from 6:30-9 p.m. in Scully 423. “Maboroshi” will be shown from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Feb. 26 in Glenn Auditorium of Dempster Hall. “Tasogare Seibei” will be shown from 9:30 a.m. to noon March 6 at Cape West 14 Cine.
“The Makioka Sisters” will probably best be appreciated by those with an intimate knowledge of 20th century Japanese culture. The film, set just before World War II, chronicles the experiences of four upper-class Osaka sisters, two of them married. The shifting political and social scene are seen through their eyes, with director Kon Ichikawa (who adapted the film from Junichiro Tanikazi’s novel) conveying the proper sense of confusion and distraction. “Makioka Sisters,” sometimes listed as “Makica Sisters,” has also been released under the title “Fine Snow.”
“The Eel,” directed by veteran filmmaker Shohei Imamura, is a darkly comic tale about love, redemption and a man’s beloved pet eel. The film opens with Takuro Yamashita (Koji Yakusho), learning that his wife might be having an affair. When he catches the couple, he brutally stabs them both to death. Eight years later, Yamashita is released on parole into the care of a Buddhist priest living in rural Chiba prefecture. Far away from his former life, yet still plagued with memories of his crime, Yamashita decides to start anew by opening a barbershop on a quiet road next to a canal. Though inward looking and self-conscious, he eventually befriends a bumptious but good-hearted day laborer, and a construction worker who’s obsessed with UFOs. His most fateful encounter, though, is with a woman named Keiko (Misa Shimizu), who he discovers unconscious following a suicide attempt. Looking to put a few of her own demons to bed, Keiko decides to stay in this sleepy corner of Japan and help her savior with his barbershop. Initially against the idea — she bears a striking resemblance to his dead spouse — he eventually agrees and even grows to like having her around. This film won the Grand Prix at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.
“Maborosi” was produced by Japanese documentarian Hirokazu Kore-eda, who made his first dramatic feature with this austere drama. Yukimo (Makiko Esumi) is married to Ikuo (Tadanobu Asano), a happy and humble man who loves her very much. While Yukimo and Ikuo are content in their marriage and have a beautiful infant son named Yuichi, Yukimo is haunted by visions of death. She has a recurring nightmare in which her grandmother leaves her home to go to the village of her birth to die, as Yukimo weeps uncontrollably. Yukimo’s sad obsession foreshadows a real tragedy in her life when she wakes one morning to discover that police are at her door — Ikuo has died after apparently committing suicide along the nearby railroad tracks. Yukimo is shattered and spends several years in solitude, until she meets Tamio (Taketoshi Naito), a widowed fisherman who lives in a nearby village with his daughter. They fall in love, and Yukimo marries him and moves into his home. She begins to find happiness anew, until she returns to her old home for her brother’s wedding, which brings back a flood of troubling memories. Maboroshi no Hikari (which translates as “Illusory Light”) won several awards at the 1995 Venice International Film Festival.
“Tasogare Seibei” is a good-natured drama set in the waning year of the EDO Period (1600-1867). The film is produced by veteran filmmaker Yoji Yamada, who also directed the Tora-san series. Seibei (Hiroyuki Sanada) is a mid-level samurai struggling to get by on a stipend of 50 rice bales a year while working as a clerk at the clan office. While his co-workers spend their evenings sucking down sake at the local pub, Seibei heads straight home to care for his two young daughters and doddering mother. One day his friend Rin-no-Jo (Mitsu Fukikoshi) tells him that his sister Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa) is leaving her thuggish husband and returning home. Tomoe soon starts to frequent Seibei’s house, taking care of his daughters, while Seibei quietly falls in love with the attractive young lass. After defeating her husband in a duel, armed with only a pointed stick, Seibei is asked if he wants to marry Tomoe. Seibei declines, too embarrassed by his poverty, to accept. Later as he prepares to kill a fellow samurai, he learns that Tomoe is engaged to another man.
For more information, contact International Programs at (573) 651-2591.