Munekata kyōdai
Black and White . 112 minutes

Shintoho / Toho

Written By

Ozu Yasujiro
Noda Kogo
Osaragi Jiro (novel)

Ohara Joji

Music By

Saito Ichiro


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.


he 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.

Film Images

"Pillow Shots"
A clip from The Munekata Sisters
dvd (R3)