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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A Ragged, Glistening, Unlikely Hero: Sanjuro (1962)

All he wanted was a place where he could spend the night for free.

Unfortunately for the man in question (Toshirô Mifune) — the title character in Akira Kurosawa’s 1962 film Sanjuro — his sleep is interrupted when nine young samurai convene in the building where he decided to bunk down. Concerned about corruption in their clan, the samurai recently wrote up a proposal for eradicating it. One of them, Iori Izaka (Yûzô Kayama), presented this plan to his uncle, Chamberlain Mutsuta (Yûnosuke Itô) — only to have Mutsuta reject their assistance, going so far as to tear up the document itself. An offended Izaka then turned to Superintendent Kikui (Masao Shimizu), who was much more sympathetic. “He thought about it and said, ‘All right. I’m with you. I’d like to talk with your group. Gather all your men quickly,'” Izaka tells the others. The samurai, delighted by this news, are ready to leap into action, but it’s at this point that they hear a half-yawn, half-groan from the next room. “Wait just a minute,” says an unfamiliar voice. The erstwhile slumberer emerges from the darkness, looks around at the startled young men, lets out another yawn and informs them that they have the situation all wrong.

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A Woman on Her Own: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)

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“Who’d ever want to work in a bar? Drinking ’til I’m sick, being a plaything for men. I haven’t enjoyed a single day since I started.”

Mikio Naruse’s 1960 film When a Woman Ascends the Stairs depicts several months in the life of Keiko Yashiro (Hideko Takamine), a hostess in Tokyo’s Ginza district. Night after night, she climbs a steep staircase and enters the bar at the top, where it’s her job to flirt with the customers, encourage them to buy drinks and keep them coming back for more. Although it’s not full-fledged prostitution, many of the hostesses do have patrons, wealthy men who pay for their rent and other expenses in exchange for sex. Keiko — or “Mama,” as she’s known to her co-workers — is an exception, even after five long and difficult years in the profession. “A woman shouldn’t be loose. That’s one rule I’ve followed,” she tells a younger hostess named Junko (Reiko Dan). “I’m not a prude, but if I let go once, it’d be too hard to stop.”

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