Family Affair: The End of Summer (1961)

Kohayagawa Family

“The Kohayagawa family is complicated indeed,” remarks Yamaguchi (Kyû Sazanka), a longtime employee of the sake brewery run by the Kohayagawas, around whom Yasujirô Ozu’s 1961 film The End of Summer revolves. Facing falling profits and heavy competition from larger rivals, their small company seems destined for a merger if it wishes to stay in business at all, but Manbei (Ganjirô Nakamura), the family’s patriarch, is opposed to the idea. He wants the company to remain independent — and it’s clear that he desires similar freedom in his personal life. Of late, he’s been disappearing frequently with little or no explanation. Curiosity eventually gets the better of his employees, so one of them, Roku (Yû Fujiki), follows him and — despite Manbei’s best efforts to deter him — discovers his secret: He’s been visiting Tsune Sasaki (Chieko Naniwa), a woman who used to be his mistress.

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There Are No Whys: Pale Flower (1964)

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Muraki (Ryô Ikebe), the yakuza protagonist of Masahiro Shinoda’s 1964 film Pale Flower, wastes no time in establishing himself as a nihilist, if not an outright sociopath. After serving three years in prison for killing a member of a rival gang, he returns to Tokyo, where the bustle and strain of daily life only make human existence seem all the more meaningless. “People… such strange animals,” he muses in a voiceover as the film opens with shots of the crowded city. “What are they living for? Their faces are lifeless, dead. They’re desperately pretending to be alive.” He can see little reason why “slaughtering one of these dumb beasts” should have been considered a major crime, especially when it appears to have had no lasting effect. “It’s a strange feeling. Somebody died, but nothing has changed.”

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