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Twenty-Four Eyes (The Criterion Collection)

4.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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(Aug 19, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Keisuke Kinoshita's Twenty-Four Eyes (Nijushi no hitomi) is an elegant, emotional chronicle of a teacher s unwavering commitment to her students, her profession, and her sense of morality. Set in a remote, rural island community and spanning decades of Japanese history, from 1928 through World War II and beyond, Kinoshita's film takes a simultaneously sober and sentimental look at the epic themes of aging, war, and death, all from the lovingly intimate perspective of Hisako Oshi (Hideko Takamine), as she watches her pupils grow and deal with life's harsh realities. Though little known in the United States, Twenty-Four Eyes is one of Japan's most popular and enduring classics.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES:New, restored high-definition digital transfer, New video interview with Japanese cinema historian and critic Tadao Sato about the film and its director, New and improved English subtitle translation.
PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay be renowned film scholar Audie Bock and excerpts from an interview with Kinoshita


Sentimental yet clear-eyed, Keisuke Kinoshita's Twenty-Four Eyes tracks the lives of 12 students through the perspective of one teacher. When Hisako Oishi (Hideko Takamine, a favorite of Kinoshita and Mikio Naruse) arrives in Shodoshima in 1928, the island’s townspeople take umbrage at her modern suit and "shiny new bike," but Oishi's charm and dedication wins them over in the end. About her charges, she tells her mother, "I don't want those adorable eyes to ever lose their sparkle." Though Oishi means "big stone," the first-graders--five boys and seven girls--call her Miss Pebble due to her petite stature. As the years pass, some of the students leave school to work, while the now-married instructor encourages the boys to consider non-military options. Though she isn't a "Red," Mrs. Oishi subscribes to pacifism and free thought. Similarly, Twenty-Four Eyes doesn't advance a political agenda, but rather a humanist one. As Audie Bock (Japanese Film Directors) notes, Kinoshita placed a high value on "innocence, purity, and beauty," and even after two decades of hardship, his heroine never loses faith in the essential goodness of people.

Though Sakae Tsuboi's 1952 novel inspired a 1987 remake, Kinoshita's film stands as the definitive adaptation. A classic in its native country, this 1954 feature shares the same timeless values as All Quiet on the Western Front and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Extras include an interview with Tadao Sato (Currents in Japanese Cinema), two trailers, and a booklet with commentary from the director and an essay by Bock. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Hideko Takamine, Chishu Ryu, Toshiko Kobayashi, Chieko Naniwa, Takahiro Tamura
  • Directors: Keisuke Kinoshita
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: August 19, 2008
  • Run Time: 156 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0019X400S
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,242 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Twenty-Four Eyes (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Timothy Lukeman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 21, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I didn't quite know what to expect from this film ... but as the last of its 156 minutes played, I wished it could have been even longer, although that would have meant a few more lumps in the throat & teary-eyed moments. It's a deeply moving film, and its sentimental scenes are truly earned & not the least bit gratuitous or pandering.

The story: a young woman begins her first teaching job on a small island village in Japan, with 12 students in her first grade class (hence the 24 eyes of the title). This opening sequence is charming & gentle, with the worst of the children's problems & woes easily mended with a few kind words & an understanding heart.

But as the children grow older, remaining in touch with their beloved teacher over the years, the harsher aspects of life begin to take their toll. First the Great Depression, then the rise of Japanese militarism -- and the teacher can only watch, sick at heart, as promising futures are dashed & redirected by family & social pressures.

While set in Japan during a specific period of history, the themes are timeless & universal, sad to say. When Japan continues its buildup to the Second World War, the patriotic songs & marches seem all too familiar -- as do the warnings from higher-ups in the school system that their job is to create obedient, patriotic citizens, willing to serve the state without question. It's made clear to our troubled teacher that any mention of other, antiwar possibilities are strictly forbidden, lest she be accused of being "a Red."

Yet she does what she can, telling her male students that she'd be just as proud of them for becoming farmers or clerks or rice merchants, rather than becoming soldiers.
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Format: DVD
This movie has been considered a classic in Japan since its release in 1954, and it's easy to see why. It begins as a charming, innocent portrait of a new teacher and her first grade class and slowly deepens into a touching yet realistic depiction of how each child's life goes on in its own way. Some of the children prosper, some fall into poverty and tragedy, but the matter-of-fact way that profound emotional issues are handled in this film without putting off the viewer is a feat that has never been accomplished so well before or since. A truly remarkable piece of art.
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Format: DVD
I first saw this film in my early 20's. The local PBS station in Tucson, Arizona was showing classic foreign films on Friday nights. After 15 or 20 minutes I was hooked. At that time this was not the kind of film I was going out of my way to see, being a guy who loved westerns, historical epics and science fiction and horror films.In 1928 a new teacher arrives in a small town on a Japanese island where she has 12 students, The film follows her life and her student's lives over the next 20 plus years. It's sometimes tragic sometimes happy but always incredibly moving. The film also depicts the war years and the censorship and militarism that the teacher has to contend with and it is a very down beat depiction. I showed this film several years ago to my best friend who is a retired teacher. He was also very moved as I had been when I first saw it. What surprised him was that the teacher in the film faced many of the same problems he faced such as the problems he had with school administrators, parents and school policies, and also that some of the school children were similar to students he had had even though this film was made in another country, another culture and was made 58 years ago. This film shows that most people are in many ways basically alike.

The Criterion edition is fantastic and the subtitles are great. This film has my highest recommendation.
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One should be very careful when one uses superlatives, but, `Twenty-Four Eyes' is one of the best movies ever made. Moreover, it is more than ever highly topical, albeit shot in black and white. It is the story of the emotional link between a junior teacher and her class of 12 children.

Keisuke Kinoshita's movie tackles directly such crucial issues as freedom of speech (if you speak out against the war, you could lose your job), as calling a spade a spade (a war means simply killing people), as the choice between war and peace, between love and hate, between care (for the children) and selfishness and between sincerity and deceit or worse denouncement. His movie makes one understand that there is an all powerful authority which intervenes behind the scene in people's lives, by manipulating public opinion and by trying to turn the population (and mostly its children and young men) into deaf-mute pawns in order to use them as cannon fodder. Another means is starving the dissidents by firing them.
Keisuke Kinoshita's characters are anchored in real life with its poverty (nothing to eat, or no money to go to school), its illnesses (tuberculosis), its accidents and, most importantly, the war and its victims.

Keisuke Kinoshita knows what true art is. It is not an expression of emotions, but the creation of emotions (involvement) into the spectator's heart.
His movie stands in sharp contrast with the actual avalanche of movie products pieced together with Meccano aliens (concocted with special effects) fighting human killers, while both are shouting their immoral gospel of violence and death. A truly cold world, and in no way the warm atmosphere created by Keisuke Kinoshita's school teacher.

`Twenty-Four Eyes' was shot by a director with a big heart, who made simply an everlasting sublime movie. A must see.
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