Kinoshita’s first postwar movie, “Morning for the Osone Family” (1946

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Kinoshita’s 5th film, the one-set 1946 “Morning for the Osone Family” (Ôsone-ke no ashita) looks like US-sponsored propaganda against Japanese militarism, not that I question Kinoshita’s abhorrence for the warmakers (implicit in “Army” made in 1944, before the end of the war).

It begins on Christmas Eve 1943 with a group in a comfortable house singing “Silent Night.” The night may be silent, but a lot is going on: the daughter (Miura Mitsuko), Yuko’s fiancé, Minari (Masuda Junji), and one of three sons, Taiji (Tokudaiji Shin),who only wants to paint, about to be inducted into the army, and another, Ichirô (Nagao Toshinosuke), being arrested for sedition for a piece he published on the roots of the war.

The dead father was clearly a liberal quite unlike his surviving brother, the colonel (Ozawa Eitarô), who moves in after his house is bombed out and treats it as his own while browbeating his sister-in-law, the too-complaisant Fusako (Sugimura Haruko), who is coerced into allowing her youngest (17-year-old) son, Takashi (Ôsaka Shirô), to volunteer for the Japanese airforce, urged on by his uncle.

Dsitraught by the surrender, the colonel moves quickly to commandeer food and other supplies from military stores for his own use, to hide his assets, and to launch the “I was just following orders” defense before any official charges of war crimes are made (though Fusako blames him, with very good reason, for the loss of her youngest and most innocent son). I have to say that Ozawa Eitarô makes a very convincing hypocritical, jingoistic villain, and that it is difficult not to root for the Ôsones in the house he has commandeered, that is, Fusako and Yuko, to stand up to his bullying.

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Though the movie is housebound, the panning camera and editing keep it from seeming visually static. It was unobtrusively shot by Kinoshita’s brother-in-law, Kasuda Hiroshi though Kinoshita’s brother, Chûji, was not yet supplying music (Asai Takaaki provided such music other than “Silent Night” as there was). There is a lot of singing in Kinoshita films, not just the earliest ones included in the Criterion Eclipse “Kinoshita and World War II” set of the first five Kinoshita Keisuke directed.

 

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

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