Review: The Makikoka Sisters (1983)
The Makikoka Sisters, or Sasame-yuki (1983)
Based on the novel by Junichiro Tanizaki, Kon Ichikawa’s The Makikoka Sisters T chronicles the lives of four sisters who gather in Kyoto each year to view the cherry blossoms. The film is a sumptuous and vivid portrait of the pre-war lifestyle of this wealthy Osaka family, and draws a parallels their lives with the seasonal variations in Japan. Upon it’s release in 1983, The Makikoka was a huge hit in North American art houses.
In the context of the retro that this film is screening in – TIFF Cinematheque’s Japanese Divas: The Great Actresses of Japanese Cinema’s Golden Age – The Makikoka Sisters should be the poster child for the entire program. It’s not just the full force of the ensensemble cast of four fantastic Japanese divas, Keiko Kishi, Yoshiko Sakuma, Juzo Itami and Kayoko Shiraishi, though they are each little acting divas in their own right. But the story here is all about the divas and the relationship between these four sisters. There are some men here, sure – a couple of husbands, a string of bad boy flings for youngest sister Taeko, but the men are props in the sisters’ drama, scuttling to the foreground when called up and receding into the wallpaper when the women are done with them.
There’s a whole lot going on in the epic The Makikoka Sisters (it clocks in at 140 mins). Part of the drama between the sisters erupts from the push and pull of tradition versus modernity. Each woman is a kind of stand-in for some version of a “Japanese woman” in a shifting society. Interestingly enough, no one seems to give a damn about the evolving roles of men. Because of course, why would a diva care?
Where to see The Makikoka Sisters
The Makikoka Sisters is playing at TIFF Bell Light Box as part of the TIFF Cinematheque programme Japanese Divas: The Great Actresses of Japanese Cinema’s Golden Age. This programme is part of Spotlight Japan (January – April), a city-wide festival celebrating classic and contemporary Japanese culture for which five of Toronto’s leading cultural institutions came together (the Japan Foundation, TIFF, Canadian Stage, The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and Soundstreams).
The Makikoka Sisters screens on Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm.
Gallery of Images from The Makikoka Sisters
Clip from The Makikoka Sisters