Keisuke Kinoshita’s Twenty-Four Eyes (Nijushi no hitomi) is an elegant, emotional chronicle of a teacher’s unwavering commitment to her students, her profession, and her sense of morality. Set in a remote, rural island community and spanning decades of Japanese history, from 1928 through World War II and beyond, Kinoshita’s film takes a simultaneously sober and sentimental look at the epic themes of aging, war, and death, all from the lovingly intimate perspective of Hisako Oshi (Hideko Takamine), as she watches her pupils grow and deal with life’s harsh realities. Though little known in the United States, Twenty-Four Eyes is one of Japan’s most popular and enduring classics. –The Criterion Collection
Universally considered one of the greatest Japanese directors, Keisuke Kinoshita worked almost his entire career for Shochiku, the Japanese studio that also housed Yasujiro Ozu. Shochiku was that studio most devoted to what the Japanese call shomin-geki, stories of everyday life; yet while Ozu developed a rigorous, austere style that he perfected from film to film, Kinoshita was constantly changing, challenging himself to adapt to new subject matter and ways of storytelling. The director of Japan’s first color feature film, the charming musical satire Carmen Comes Home, could move just a few months later on to the bold experimentation just a few months later of A Japanese Tragedy, a work whose jumbled timeframe and insertion of newsreel footage anticipates the modernist films of the Sixties. He made bold use of traditional Japanese art forms such as kabuki (The Ballad of Narayama) and brush painting (The River Fuefuki), but could… read more
I've now seen the film at least three times and it never fails to move me. This film really started to hit me when Takamine gave the lunchbox to one of her students. And then it hit me really hard again when one of her former students saw all her friends having fun on the field trip as she spied on them from the alleyway behind the restaurant. And then the film hit me again. And again...
The extra effort to cast young, look-alike siblings and matching adult actors has created the moving illusion that we are witnessing our own classroom of kids growing up. A bit heavy with the waterworks, but the tears aren't jerked... they're earned.
In our annual poll, we pair our favorite new films of 2011 with older films seen in the same year to create fantastic double features.