Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Vale Setsuko Hara

A memory.

Alexander Payne burst out of the Jolly Cinema in Bologna way back in 2013 and said almost to the entire crowd. "My god. Did you see Setsuko Hara in that movie". The film was Kochiyama Sochun (Sadao Yamanaka, Japan, 1936). She played a character named Onami. She is the last person listed in the credits in the Bologna program book and the accompanying notes by Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordstrom make no mention of her role or her appearance. Their focus is on the director Yamanaka and the film's place in the firmament of early Japanese sound films. In the swirl of a four films a day event I cannot of course for the life of me remember anything beyond Payne’s exclamatory moment!

It was not Hara's debut, that occurred in Tamerau nakare wakodo yo (Tetsu Taguchi, Japan, 1935) I suspect not a film that even any of the cognoscenti will have seen. 

Her lasting contribution though was made in the six films she made for Yasujiro Ozu and we should be grateful to the DVD company Criterion for immediately posting a wonderful essay by the late Donald Richie titled Ozu and Setsuko Hara.

Hara had not acted for close to fifty years but she is as luminous as ever and will so remain.

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