Depicting the period in and around World War II in Japan, 'Our Mother' depicts the madness and inhumanity of what happens when a right-wing militaristic government takes over and drives a nation to annihilation. The tragedy not only strikes a nation as a whole, but comes to the doorsteps of a woman who is left alone and desperate with everyone for whom she cares and knows victimized by conservatism, jingoism, nationalism and arrogance. There is no respite. —aghaemi
Writhing in National Shame
Yoji Yamada's Kabei — Our Mother begins in the late 1930s after Japan had initiated what later became known as The Second Sino-Japanese War. The film begins with Kayo Nogami's husband, a respected intellectual who teaches at the University, writing an article protesting the war with China. Seeing this as a betrayal, the Japanese government brutally arrests him in front of his family for a "thought crime." Yamada is best known for directing a trilogy of Samurai films, especially The Twilight Samurai, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and won an unprecedented 12 Japanese Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay (written by Yamada). His later films remind me of Akira Kurosawa, not just for their Samurai themes, but for their sensitivity and deep humanity, and Kabei is no exception. Born in 1931, Yamada would have been about the age of the youngest daughter Teryu, who narrates the story as an older woman looking back. After "Tobei" is imprisoned, his wife Kayo, played by the beautiful Sayuri Yoshinaga, struggles to provide for her family, including two daughters aged around six and twelve I would guess. This exquisitely filmed movie follows the mother's heroic efforts, with only a few sympathetic supporters, to survive in a completely hostile environment. Kabei has been called "dark" for the harsh treatment Kayo and her daughters receive, but Yamada's tender depiction of the family and Yoshinaga's astonishing performance lift it from tragedy to triumph. Usually, a younger actor progressively plays an older one, but in this film Yoshinaga, around 65 when she made Kabei, starts out playing a young mother!
- Feb 6, 2012
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