Ozu remade this story of travelling actors in 1959, but even without sound or lustrous colour the earlier version’s by no means second best. The change of location’s instructive, since here the kabuki troupe are visiting chilly northern climes (rather than sunny Shikoku in the later incarnation), and the whole story’s more a matter of subsistence, both financial and emotional, as actor-manager Sakomoto’s encounter with his former lover and their grown-up son causes ructions with his current actress girlfriend. With the camera alert to every nuance in the performances, and the direction a masterclass in effortless transitions, it’s clearly the work of a master-in-the-making. The final shot of the resilient child actor in the hard-pressed band powerfully underscores the theme of the parents’ misfortunes and betrayals having the fullest impact on the next generation.
Cast and crew