and White . 112 minutes
Shintoho / Toho
Osaragi Jiro (novel)
Tanaka Kinuyo (Setsuko)
Takamine Hideko (Mariko)
Uehara Ken (Tashiro Hiroshi)
Taksugi Sanae (Mashita Yoriko)
Ryu Chishu (Munkekata Tadachika)
Yamamura So (Mimura Ryosuke)
Saito Tatsuo (Professor Uchida)
Setsuko, who runs a bar to support herself, is
married to the alcoholic, ne'er-do-well Mimura.
However, she's never forgotten her true love Hiroshi,
an antique dealer. Her sister Mariko, who typifies
the young, liberated generated, also loves Hiroshi,
but tries to bring him and Setsuko together. Their
chance finally comes when Mimura dies of a heart
failure after a particularly nasty row with Setsuko.
To everyone's surprise, she turns down Hiroshi,
and moves back to her native Kyoto to nurse her
father, who's diagnosed with cancer.
Thoughts from Ozu
Osaragi Jiro, the author of the original novel
said: "The Munekata Sisters is yours."
Writing the script was a breeze. Despite collaborating
with Shintoho for the first time, with old friends
lending a hand, production went smoothly. Adapting
existing material for the screen came with it's
own set of problems. To transpose onto an appointed
cast that which only existed in the author's imagination
was a daunting task indeed. Wen I created my own
scripts, I always based my characters on actors
I already in mind. This made it easier for the
performers. In the past, I would put a lot of
effort into a cultivating newcomer. Now, I only
want to use veterans so that I'd get veteran performances.
Perhaps I no longer have the energy to train mediocre
actors. Well, it actually has nothing to do with
experience. Anyone with decent qualities suited
me fine. The worst type happen to be those with
just a bit of talent, but have get praised to
the skies. On the contrary, if there was someone
I took a shine to, I would do my best to give
him a part in my work, even if I had insert a
role for him or her.
43rd film, shot from May to August 1950. The Japanese
title has to be read according to the title of
the original novel as "Munekata kyodai",
and not as the usual "Munekata shimai".
For the first time, Ozu accepted the invitation
of another company, Shintoho, for the film. The
original novel is one of Osaragi Jiro's most mature
works. It was published serially in the Asahi
Shinbun newspaper in 1949. Popular literature
serialized in newspapers easily became the topic
of conversation, and were thus easy to cast with
many starts, and had enormous box-office value.
Therefore, the film production companies rivaled
to put these novels on screen. However, the film
authors struggled hard just to follow the complicated
plots. Easy works were published in excess. For
Ozu, cinema was not subordinated to anything,.
He was convinced that cinema is an independent
art. This is Ozu's only film based on a serialized
novel. Shintoho was founded by a group of big
stars who left Toho film production company at
the time of the long strike in 1947. Shintoho
boasted many stars, but directors were lacking.
Therefore, they engaged first class directors
from other companies. The budget of The Munekata
Sisters of 50 million yen (at that time 138,000
US dollars) was the highest until then. The
Munekata Sisters was to be Tanaka Kinuyo's
first film after her three month stay in the United
States, but Shochiku fought to take the lead.
Finally, the Shochiku film (in name only, it is
a Tanaka Kinuyo Production) Engagement Ring
(Engeji Ringu, directed by Keisuke Kinoshita)
was released slightly before The Munekata Sisters.
The screenplay by Noda and Ozu changed Osaragi's
novel according to Ozu's style, and in some parts,
it resembles the scenario of The Moon Has Risen
(Tsuki wa noborinu), depicting the contrast
between an old-fashioned, reserved elder sister
and a modern, active younger sister. The scenes
of Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe are treated as
equal. Their relation is not tense, since the
family's house in Tokyo has no centripetal force.
This film's somewhat diffuse, diluted impression
is not due to Ozu's separation from Shochiku,
and probably neither to his inability Osaragi
Jiro's conception theme. Rather, since the impression
of the space "house" is weak, there
is no organic relation to the other places.