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Yûzô Kawashima's Post-War Japan

MUBI Special

An essential voice of post-war Japanese cinema, director Yûzô Kawashima is surprisingly unknown outside of Japan, where his 1957 comedy Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate is considered one of the country’s greatest films. Coming to artistic maturity in the 1950s before tragically dying at the age of 45 in 1963—at which point he had already made 47 features—Kawashima forms a key bridge between the classical cinema made in Japan before the Pacific War and the Japanese New Wave of the 1960s, one of whose key figures, Shohei Imamura (Vengeance Is Mine), served as assistant director and screenwriter under Kawashima.

Working at the Nikkatsu studio, in the 1950s Kawashima crafted numerous melodramas and comedies that brilliantly reflected the changing social standards and morals of a nation trying to recover from both the war and American occupation. Ably directing large ensembles in a mixture of adult romance and drama on the one side and ribald comedies on the other, Kawashima proved himself a studio director with an acute sense of Japanese society, eager and willing to explore the limits of what is permissible and what is transgressive. We are proud to present a large retrospective devoted to Kawashima’s work in the 1950s, with many films rarely if ever screened outside of Japan, and most shown in brand new restorations.

Till We Meet Again

Yûzô Kawashima Japan, 1955

Now Playing
6 days to watch
Yûzô Kawashima's
Post-War Japan

One of several remarkably even-handed melodramas Yuzo Kawashima crafted for Nikkatsu, this Yasushi Inoue adaptation characteristically features complexly connected characters and avoids histrionics. At its heart is whether adults trapped in social relationships can free themselves to be happy.

The Balloon

Yûzô Kawashima Japan, 1956

Now Playing
13 days to watch
Yûzô Kawashima's
Post-War Japan

Adapted from novelist Jiro Osaragi (Ozu’s The Munekata Sisters) by Kawashima and Shohei Imamura, this is a beautifully told multi-character drama of post-war Japanese morality: old guard and new, gender divisions, the struggle to live and the benefits of wealth. That is to say: A modern picture.

Burden of Love

Yûzô Kawashima Japan, 1955

Now Playing
21 days to watch
Yûzô Kawashima's
Post-War Japan

There’s baby fever in post-war, post-occupation Japan! Nearly every woman, young or old, married or single, desirous or not, faces motherhood in Yuzo Kawashima’s socially-minded farce. This clever mixture of comedy and “issue film” showcases the director’s great ability to juggle large ensembles.

Our Town

Yûzô Kawashima Japan, 1958

Now Playing
27 days to watch
Yûzô Kawashima's
Post-War Japan

A prelude to the Japanese New Wave, Yuzo Kawashima’s vivid adaptation of a decade-spanning story of a rowdy rickshaw driver and his raising of his daughter and granddaughter is rich with carefully observed anecdotal charm, no-nonsense realism, and a critique of Japan’s patriarchal society.

Hungry Soul

Yûzô Kawashima Japan, 1956

Coming Soon
4 days
Yûzô Kawashima's
Post-War Japan

The first part of this romantic melodrama shows the modern themes boldly addressed by Yuzo Kawashima: the place of women in a conservative society turned upside down in the post-war era. The story tells of the vivid conflict desire and yearning has with the constraints of marriage and widowhood.

Hungry Soul, Part II

Yûzô Kawashima Japan, 1956

Coming Soon
18 days
Yûzô Kawashima's
Post-War Japan

The emotional conclusion to Kawashima’s melodrama finds the story’s two women struggling to embrace their lovers and break free from social expectations. Can a widowed mother of two teens freely love another man? Will a wife break free of her horrible marriage? A heartrending portrait of the 1950s.

Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate

Yûzô Kawashima Japan, 1957

Coming Soon
25 days
Yûzô Kawashima's
Post-War Japan

Named the 4th best Japanese film ever by the famed magazine Kinema Jumpo, this effortlessly bawdy, slyly class-breaking comedy is perhaps Yuzo Kawashima’s greatest masterpiece. Though a period film, its setting on the edge of Japan’s modern transformation also makes it a clever post-war exposé.

Tales of Ginza

Yûzô Kawashima Japan, 1955

expired 1 day ago
Yûzô Kawashima's
Post-War Japan

The famed Tokyo neighborhood of Ginza can be anything to anybody. In Yuzo Kawashima’s melodrama, it’s a place for rebuilding post-occupation Japan, a rare artists’ colony, and a hotbed of drugs. Kawashima adroitly balances romance, seediness, and hope, all wrapped inside a neighborhood mystery.

Suzaki Paradise: Red Light District

Yûzô Kawashima Japan, 1956

expired 8 days ago
Yûzô Kawashima's
Post-War Japan

We are proud to present a retrospective of new restorations of films by Yuzo Kawashima, an essential precursor to the Japanese New Wave. Dedicated without judgment to the lower classes—bar owners, ex-sex workers, the unemployed—this masterpiece is an enthralling immersion into a rarely seen milieu.

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