Twenty-Four Eyes (Criterion, 1954) D: Keisuke Kinoshita, w/ Hideko Takamine, Shizue Natsukawa. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNN
In 1928, a young woman on a bicycle arrives in a poor island village to begin teaching at the public school. Five years later, she quits in disgust at what the militaristic regime has done to the curriculum. After the war, she returns to teach the children of her former students. Along the way, some students drop out, some die in the war. The teacher marries and has children of her own.
It's easy to see why this simple tale of teacherly love and hardship keeps ending up on Japanese lists of all-time classics. Veteran director Keisuke Kinoshita does a masterful job of telling an intimate, emotional story through epic, beautiful visuals so simple they seem unplanned, and controlling his rhythms so the film never seems overlong despite its 154-minute running time.
It's less easy for Canadian viewers to understand how this film affected the Japanese audience it was made for. Film historian Tadao Sato rectifies this to a degree with a discussion of Japanese attitudes before and after the war, while Audie Bock does a good job on the production and its star, the quietly luminous Hideko Takamine.
Criterion delivers a fine high-def transfer, slightly windowboxed to ensure a full image on both conventional and widescreen TVs.
EXTRAS Tadao Sato interview. Full-frame, b&w. Japanese audio. English subtitles. Booklet with Audie Bock essay and director essay.