Love and Politics in Kozaburo Yoshimura’s Temptation (1948)

Love and Politics in Kozaburo Yoshimura’s Temptation (1948)

Eight years after her loss of life and 6 a long time following her quiet retirement from the movie world, Setsuko Hara arguably stays the best-known twentieth-century Japanese actress. Audiences worldwide bear in mind her distinctive magnificence (she was typically suspected to be of partial European heritage)1 and the humane performances she gave within the movies of Yasujiro Ozu. “Decidedly unglamorous,” wrote Stephen Harvey in a 1974 subject of Movie Remark, “this least histrionic of actresses relied on little greater than an irrepressible half smile and decorously hushed voice. But her performances are invariably so shifting that no pyrotechnics have been wanted.” Cementing Hara’s standing as a movie icon was her untimely disappearance from cinema screens in 1963 — the yr of Ozu’s loss of life and never lengthy after her swan music in Hiroshi Inagaki’s 1962 Chushingura. Per movie historian Donald Richie, she withdrew from the general public eye claiming to have by no means loved performing,2 and secluded herself in Kamakura, south of Tokyo.

Regardless of the worldwide acclaim of her work for Ozu, Hara’s collaborations with that director (six movies made between 1949-1961) comprise a small a part of a profession that, traditionally talking, hit its most fascinating phases a decade or so earlier. Between the late Nineteen Thirties and late ‘40s, Setsuko Hara as a movie presence symbolized swaggering political agendas. In 1937, she was scouted3 for the Nazi Germany-Japan co-production The New Earth / The Daughter of the Samurai, which concludes together with her farming in Manchuria (the Chinese language demographic annexed by Japan a number of years earlier). Hara’s embodiment of wartime expansionism continued in Tsutomu Sawamura’s Naval Brigade at Shanghai (1939), by which she performs a Chinese language girl at first against however later endorsing the Japanese forces occupying her metropolis. Within the early ‘40s, she exuded patriotism in settings acquainted to home Japanese audiences: fortunately seeing off battle-bound recruits in Kunio Watanabe’s Towards the Decisive Battle within the Sky (1943), dedicatedly serving the army regardless of private loss in Kiyoshi Saeki’s Three Girls of the North (1945), and enjoying herself in Mikio Naruse’s Till Victory Day (1945), a comedy whereby she and different starlets have been dispatched to entertain troops on a Pacific island.

Following Japan’s give up to the Allied Powers in 1945 and the beginning of the American Occupation that very same yr, Hara’s display screen picture modified, now abiding by movie regulation supervised by the overseas authorities. Along with banning heroic depictions of militarism and feudalism (which the Allies believed liable for Japan’s worldwide aggression throughout World Warfare II), the Occupation censors inspired democratic films selling individuality, staff’ rights, and the emancipation of ladies.4 As one in all her nation’s hottest actresses, Hara grew to become a cinematic spokesperson for the Occupation’s imaginative and prescient: gone have been the nationalistic speeches, the fawning over army tunes, the willingness to die for imperial causes. She now depicted idealistic Japanese looking forward to a greater life within the new Japan.

This latter cycle of movies included Akira Kurosawa’s No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), for which Hara performed a decided younger girl whose father and lover are persecuted by the wartime authorities, and who turns into an activist by the drama’s finish. In Tadashi Imai’s two-part The Blue Mountains (1949), she espoused liberal rules earlier than an old style group. Kozaburo Yoshimura’s The Ball on the Anjo Home (1947) forged her as the only member of a bourgeois household accepting change of their world. The latter image ended with Hara persuading her father to simply accept the passing of their earlier lifestyle and entering into the solar, beaming in close-up: an emblem of optimism for the longer term. She’d reunite with Yoshimura the next yr for Temptation, an image inserting larger emphasis on straight-forward melodrama however nonetheless streaked with time capsules of late-’40s Japan.

Temptation (1948) begins with a twenty-one-year-old medical scholar named Takako Hitomi (Setsuko Hara) visiting her father’s grave in distant Gifu Prefecture. There she meets Ryukichi Yajima (Shin Saburi), an older man and former scholar of her father or mother. Driving the prepare collectively, they reminisce over their loss in frequent, Ryukichi remembering how, through the conflict, Takako’s father had been expelled from his professorship for liberalism. Later, Takako tearfully remembers her father’s dedication to his college students regardless of being “beneath the watchful eye of the army police.” For Setsuko Hara followers, these strains instantly recall No Regrets for Our Youth and the way that movie started with Hara’s father shedding his job beneath the identical circumstances. Each plot threads derive from the real-life terminations of suspected leftist educators through the conflict.

Setsuko Hara and Shin Saburi.

Again in Tokyo, Ryukichi invitations Takako to dwell with him and his youngsters out of respect for her useless father. Residing beneath the identical roof, Takako learns that her patron is a progressive politician hoping to assist “the brand new Japan.” At one level, she finds a e book in his research analyzing “personal life and [criticizing] our notions of the make-up of household.” (The yr of Temptation’s launch additionally witnessed the Civil Code of 1948, which challenged the Confucian household system outlined by the sooner Meiji Civil Code and promoted “the dignity of the person, equality of the sexes, and excessive regard for offspring.”)5 Takako herself is one thing of a progressive — desirous to dwell with independence and profit others by turning into a health care provider. Meantime, Ryukichi squabbles with members of his celebration over help for a rival group’s candidate (“Individuality, private opinion, zeal. What number of politicians in Japan possess these qualities right now?”) and makes an attempt to free one in all Takako’s fellow college students, who’s been arrested for promoting sweeteners disguised as flour. When detained, the scholar claims he bought the misleading items from the black market. Black markets, whereas prevalent in Japan going again to the late Nineteen Thirties, had metastasized after the conflict, with greater than sixty thousand stalls showing in Tokyo in 1946 alone. The issue remained widespread two years later — a lot so {that a} journal editorial quipped, “The Solely Individuals Not Dwelling Illegally Are These in Jail.”6

Additionally reflective of the darkish underbelly of Occupation-era Japan is the tuberculosis which has confined Ryukichi’s spouse (Haruko Sugimura) to a sanitarium. This illness of the lungs was the primary reason for loss of life in Japan all through the primary half of the twentieth-century however particularly within the postwar years: killing 2 hundred and eighty-two per thousand people in 19457 and over 100 thousand yearly via the rest of the last decade.8 Positive sufficient, the spouse’s situation is terminal and she or he in the end succumbs to her situation — however not earlier than suspecting her husband’s fallen in love with the younger girl he’s taking good care of.

In a 1947 interview with the English-language paper Stars and Stripes, Setsuko Hara expressed refusal to carry out kissing scenes in movement photos — regardless of the Occupation censors’ encouragement to studios for on-screen acts of bodily affection. Like fashionable main man Ken Uehara, Hara felt kissing remained rare amongst Japanese and thus didn’t wish to carry out such scenes till it grew to become frequent habits.9 Nevertheless, additionally like Uehara — who enacted a steamy love scene with Daiei starlet Fujiko Yamamoto in Yoshimura’s 1956 Night time River — she solely maintained this resolve so lengthy, as marked by a tearful kiss between her and Shin Saburi in Temptation. Additionally indicative of Occupation affect are occasional abrupt edits suggesting censorship. Within the late Nineteen Forties, separate branches of the overseas authorities have been charged with approving scripts and screening completed merchandise earlier than permitting them into theaters.10 Often, strains or scenes met with script approval have been deemed “problematic” on movie and thus required deletions. Just a few moments point out Temptation was one such movie to endure post-production cuts: characters typically change locations or posture in the course of pictures, seemingly dialogue axed on the censors’ orders.

Temptation doesn’t a lot critique late-‘40s Japan because it permits society to disclose itself via dialogue; by drama’s finish, neither protagonist has completed something to impression their nation — Ryukichi’s nonetheless a progressive in rhetoric solely, and Takako practically provides up every part (together with medical college) to flee her troubles. (One of many least completed of Hara’s liberal protagonists of the Occupation period, a lot of whom achieved greatness not less than for themselves.) As a substitute, the narrative thrust derives from the protagonists’ Might-December relationship, which the movie handles in a straight-forward method. Working from a script by Kaneto Shindo, director Yoshimura steadily develops Ryukichi and Takako’s relationship via chemistry and key conditions. In a mid-movie dance sequence, the 2 characters take pleasure in one another’s firm initially on a pressured platonic stage. Because the scene progresses, nevertheless, Takako leans nearer and extra affectionately into her associate, fingers crawling up his shoulder as they weave in regards to the dance flooring. Yoshimura ideally occasions a montage of close-ups alternating between faces, intertwined arms, and — after all — their toes shifting in unison upon the dance flooring. The outcomes, accompanied by a gradual waltz, rank with probably the most romantic movie materials this reviewer has ever seen.

Often the melodrama turns into a tad overheated (e.g., the inevitable confrontation with the spouse and her sudden about face on her deathbed: begging Takako to take care of her household), however Temptation nonetheless triumphs via the chemistry of its leads and retroactively enjoyable time capsules. All carried alongside splendidly by Setsuko Hara, who right here goes towards earlier talked about reward for the subdued performing in Ozu’s photos, relying closely on histrionics to convey her character’s conflicted emotions. She’d stay a vessel for Occupation politics some time longer, although in 1949 discovered herself in roles indicating the close to finish of overseas scrutiny. Whereas the censors expressed issues with Keisuke Kinoshita’s Right here’s to the Younger Woman and Ozu’s Late Spring — each of which revolved round Hara being pressured into an organized marriage (deemed “feudalistic” by the occupying authorities), the 2 movies went into manufacturing and launch with their fundamental premises unaltered. (The script for Ozu’s movie merely softened a number of strains relating to the conflict.)11

Hara clung to star standing after the Occupation’s 1952 finish and entered the part of her profession for which she stays most well-known. Now not jostled by authorities politics, she maintained fame by representing emotional agendas felt by her viewers. Her collaborations with Ozu continued — predominately enjoying housewives and daughters who know greatest — whereas different administrators, akin to Mikio Naruse, pitted her towards unscrupulous males. In three ‘50s movies for the latter director, she briefly leaves an inattentive husband within the first, completely leaves him within the second, and begins contemplating divorce within the third. Writing within the late ‘50s, through the peak of Hara’s reputation and never lengthy earlier than her retirement, historians Donald Richie and Joseph L. Anderson described the actress as “nearly excessively delicate in her assaults on males, her predominant grievance being that they fail to know, one, her enterprise expertise and, two, her true female delicacy. This sort of position […] has not unnaturally made her enormously fashionable with middle-aged ladies, whose spokeswoman she has develop into.”12


  1. Galbraith, Stuart, IV. The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Movies of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. New York: Faber & Faber, 2002, p. 75
  2. Harvey, Stephen. “Individuals We Like: Setsuko Hara.” Movie Remark Vol. 10, No. 6 (November 1974), p. 34
  3. Hansen, Janine. “The New Earth (1936/7): A German-Japanese Misalliance in Movie.” in Gerow, Aaron and Abé Mark Nornes. In Reward of Movie Research: Essays in Honor of Makino Mamoru. Yokohama and Ann Arbor: Kinema Membership, 2001, p. 188
  4. Hirano, Kyoko. Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo: Japanese Cinema Underneath the American Occupation, 1945-1952. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Establishment Press, 1992, p. 149
  5. Desser, David (ed). Ozu’s Tokyo Story. Cambridge: Cambridge College Press, 1997, p. 31
  6. Prince, Stephen. Audio commentary for Stray Canine. The Criterion Assortment DVD.
  7. Dore, R.P. Metropolis Life in Japan: A Examine of a Tokyo Ward. Berkeley: College of California Press, 1958, p. 65
  8. Conrad, David A. Akira Kurosawa and Trendy Japan. Jefferson: McFarland, 2022, p. 58
  9. Hirano, p. 160
  10. Ibid, pp. 47-8
  11. Ibid, p. 49; 54; 70
  12. Anderson, Joseph L. and Donald Richie. The Japanese Movie: Artwork and Business (Expanded Version). Princeton: Princeton College Press, 1982, p. 399

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