The Makioka Sisters

Sasame-yuki

dir. Kon Ichikawa

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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This late classic from the great Kon Ichikawa — about a prosperous Osaka shipbuilding family whose traditional world perches on the brink of cataclysm as World War II approaches — became a major art-house hit in North America.
Based on the novel by Junichiro Tanizaki (whose The Key was the source for Ichikawa's earlier Odd Obsession), The Makioka Sisters was the greatest success of Ichikawa's late career, and became an art-house hit in North America. Set just before the beginning of the Second World War, this plush, acidulous saga recounts the story of an Osaka shipbuilder's family that is trying to marry off one of its four daughters, the clan's privilege and insularity allowing them to focus on domestic issues and the waning rituals of courtship while ignoring the portents of cataclysm all around them. Ichikawa's remarkable ensemble of actresses, headed by veteran Keiko Kishi, proves that the reign of the Japanese diva did not end in the Golden Age. Aglow with cherry blossoms and brocade kimonos (a kimono specialist was among the film's many consultants), which stress Ichikawa's central theme of ephemerality, The Makioka Sisters is "[t]he most pleasurable movie I have seen in months . . . It's like the work of a painter who has perfect control of what colour he gives you" (Pauline Kael).