A rare chance to see a much overlooked example of director Yasujiro Ozu and star Kinuyo Tanaka at their absolute finest. Awaiting her husband’s return from the war, Tokiko (Tanaka) struggles to support herself and their young child Hiroshi, a situation which reaches a crisis point when Hiroshi falls ill and requires life-saving treatment. Left with no way to pay for her son’s care, Tokiko reluctantly approaches a madam for work. Tokiko’s problems are compounded when her repatriated husband discovers her transgression.
Considering that Ozu was a director who typically tended to avoid theatricality, A Hen in the Wind is an unusually dramatic story. A significant contributing factor to this is a violation of the conventional wisdom surrounding Ozu’s filmmaking practices. A much observed aspect of the director’s style is his tendency to not show what would normally be considered important story events, but A Hen in the Wind is notable exactly for the depiction of these incidents and as a consequence of this the film is significantly more confrontational than is typical of an Ozu film. Ozu clearly had a great respect for Tanaka as an actress (she appeared in ten of his films over a 29-year period) and she is thus trusted to carry the dramatic load for much of the film, with the end result being one of the more nuanced and affecting performances of her career. While Mizoguchi opposed Tanaka’s directorial aspirations, Ozu’s reverence for her was such that he allowed her to film an unused script of his for her second directorial work, The Moon has Risen. (16mm print)
Recommended rating: Cert 12.