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Past Master

Wednesday, Sep 29 1999
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Japan's gentle, prolific director Keisuke Kinoshita died last year, and the Pacific Film Archive pays tribute with 10 of his major works on Fridays in October. The double bills seem intended to demonstrate Kinoshita's versatility with both harsh drama and comedy: On Oct. 1, Morning for the Osone Family dawns only after a long nightmare when a mother entrusts the fate of her family to one of Kinoshita's rare villains, a militarist relative. The second film on the bill is the comedy Carmen Comes Home, Japan's first all-color feature, in which Kinoshita's favorite actress Hideko Takamine plays an "artistic" stripper who returns to her rural village and organizes a musical benefit. The second Friday screens the satirical sequel Carmen's Pure Love and the superb A Japanese Tragedy, whose self-sacrificing postwar mother makes Stella Dallas look stingy.

Sacrifice isn't confined to women, though, and the heartbreaking climax of Clouds at Twilight has an inquisitive young boy putting aside his dreams to succeed his father as a fishmonger; Yoshiko Kuga dazzles as his materialistic older sister. You'll also need tissues for the rest of the Oct. 15 bill, one of Japan's most beloved antiwar films, Twenty-four Eyes, about a progressive teacher (Takamine again) protecting her 12 students against militarist and anti-Red sentiment in an island village. On Oct. 22, class resentment and hopelessness among the young take over in The Garden of Women, in which schoolgirls revolt against their unfair headmistress, and The Rose on His Arm, Kinoshita's contribution to the "sun tribe" genre that forces a young boy to choose between living large off rich wastrels and slaving at a humiliating job; the rose symbolizes both the attractive, semi-homoerotic world of criminal rich boys and his mother's love. The River Fuefuki (Oct. 29) is famous for its haunting, colorful tinting and stills during numerous 16th-century battle scenes: A poor family living along the river sacrifices son after son, even a daughter, to the campaigns of the never-seen Lord Takeda -- over the generations, they come to dread the sound of frantic feet crossing the bridge and the sight of flames as yet another battle comes dangerously close to their river. The bitter mothers played by Takamine in both this film and Immortal Love defy warmongers and husbands. In the latter, a woman shouts, "Go ahead, hate me! I've suffered and I can suffer more!" It's not masochism so much as a stubborn pride in how much abuse her decent and pure heart can take.

All films screen at the Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft (at Bowditch), Berkeley. Admission is $6, second show $1.50; call (510) 642-1124 or check www.bampfa.berkeley.edu for specific show times.

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Frako Loden

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