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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 islands 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. FennessySee all Editorial Reviews
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Top customer reviews
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. The boys, of course, are caught up in shining visions of military glory & honor, without the slightest notion of the dark & bloody reality behind them.
At the same time, she also struggles to help her female students become more than what family & society have prepared them to be ... not always successfully. Why does she struggle against such hopeless odds? Not so much for political or ideological reasons, but because of her individual compassion & spirit. These struggles even go on within her own family, as her husband is drafted & her own young sons dream of becoming soldiers themselves.
Covering nearly 20 years, the film has an elegiac tone, a sense of memories washing up over & over again upon the same shore which opens & closes the film. Hideko Takamine is superb as the teacher, nicknamed "Miss Pebble" by her students, changing over the years from the fresh-faced young woman who appears in Western clothes, riding a bicycle through the shocked village, to the middle-aged woman both wounded & tempered by loss & grief, still refusing to surrender to despair.
156 minutes may sound daunting, but don't let that stop you from watching this richly rewarding film. Most highly recommended!
The movie was made in 1954 & faced political obstacles as you may well imagine. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs made in 1960 is a really good companion piece to this since both portray a Japanese woman's troubles facing her country's societal pressure in totally different manners. Even though the ending is as you would expect, it is powerful & moving. 4.5 out of 5 stars for this one from Kinoshita.
If you are a fan of the rapid cuts used in movies today you'll never finish this one but if you love deeply detailed storylines & a fully developed character played by a sterling actress this is one for you. Since you may be wondering, I rate When a Woman Ascends the Stairs about .1 higher than Twenty Four Eyes but really there is little to choose from here. WAWATS is a bit faster paced & deals with a darker lifestyle. My personal preferences lean that way.
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Rating = ***
Director: Keisuke Kinoshita
Producer: Ryôtarô Kuwata...Read more