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What Did the Lady Forget?

Posted by martinteller on January 28, 2013

Komiya (Tatsuo Saitô) is a professor, and his wife Tokiko (Sumiko Kurishima) is, well, kind of a bitch.  She sternly bosses her husband around.  When their youthful niece Setsuko (Michiko Kuwano) arrives, Tokiko gives her an earful of lectures as well.  Komiya wants to skip his usual golf outing, but Tokiko pushes him into it, saying he needs the exercise.  The professor grabs his clubs, drops them off with a student named Okada (Shûji Sano), and heads out for a night of drinking.  However, Setsuko finds him at the bar, and gets him to take her to a geisha house.  Tokiko is none too pleased when her niece returns home hammered, and then a slip-up in Komiya’s deception threatens to get everyone in hot water.  Setsuko urges her uncle to stand up for himself, but she has something to learn about relations between men and women.

Ozu’s pre-war films aren’t as affecting as his later work, but this is still really enjoyable.  One of his funniest (unless you’re more fond of the fart jokes in Good Morning), it’s a light domestic comedy.  The pacing is, as one would expect, very casual but the humor is quite lively… and occasionally a bit dirty.  The gender politics are a bit dated but it all works in context.  There’s some wonderful little moments throughout, just these easy, gentle little nuggets of comedy and lightness.  Tokiko’s friend trying to laugh without creating wrinkles, Okada trying to tutor a child and being flummoxed by the math problem, Komiya pretending to scold Setsuko for her drinking.  It’s not the kind of thing to elicit great guffaws, but I was frequently chuckling and smirking.

Performances all around are endearing, with Saitô as the Chishu Ryu type, Kurishima being domineering without overdoing it, and Kuwano beautifully sly and spunky.  As for the cinematography, it’s what you’d expect: understated but effective in its simplicity.  Ozu’s trademark pillow shots and tatami-cam are in place.  Also a lovely little score.  Overall, it’s a very subdued but entertaining look at the war of the sexes.  Rating: Very Good (80)


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