Thursday, March 26 @ 7:00 pm
Chiisai Ouchi (136 min) (2014)
The Little House
Shown in Japanese, with English sub-titles
Cast: Takako Matsu, Haru Kuroki, Takataro Kataoka, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Chieko Baisho
Director: Yoji Yamada
Chiisai Ouchi tells the story of a poor country girl, Taki (played by Haru Kuroki, who just won Japan’s Academy Award for her role). Taki moves from the cold, poor northern regions of Japan to become a maid in an upper middle class household in prewar Yokohama. The master of the house runs a toy company; the madam (Tokiko, played by Takako Matsu) likes to consider herself a modern woman and even tells her new maid to “call me Tokiko.”
The film alternates between the present and the past, as Taki, now old, writes her memoirs and tells her grand-nephew what life was like in an earlier era. “People were poor, and it was a time when young girls were sold to become prostitutes. The pretty ones were chosen by the geisha houses. I wasn’t pretty, but I was lucky. I became a maid, which was an honorable job.”
Japan’s war in China and the escalation of tensions with the United States are the backdrop for the story, as the war increasingly intrudes on the family’s idyllic life from afar. But beyond its brilliant depiction of life in pre-war Japan, there is another story -- and that is the illicit love affair between Tokiko and a young employee of her husband’s firm named Itakura (Hidetaka Yoshioka), whom Taki secretly loves.
Chiisai Ouchi was nominated for nine Japanese Academy Awards this year, including Best Picture. It was directed by the legendary Yoji Yamada. Now 83 years old, Yamada – who lived through the era he depicts in this film -- has directed 81 films over the years, including the 48 episodes of the Tora-san (Otoko wa Tsurai Yo) series, the longest running series in world cinema history. (In Chiisai Ouchi the elderly Taki is played by Chieko Baisho, who starred as the character “Sakura” in every one of those 48 films.) More recently Yamada achieved recognition for his Samurai Trilogy, which includes the acclaimed Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei).
Comments from the selection committee
An absolutely beautiful film. Although serene and quiet, there was a lot of warmth and beauty to the story and its characters. I think it also gives a different perspective of the war, because the story only but briefly reveals how the family is affected.
OMG. This is a great film from the master of Japanese film. What more can I say? Every aspect of this film was very, very good.
Great script, great acting, and great mise-en-scène.
I enjoyed the storyline, which was very similar to Ishiguro's "The Remains of the Day." I especially enjoyed the interplay between the aunt (Taki) and her nephew.