Japan Society Film Program presents the Best of Tora-san, a director’s tribute to the world’s longest running film series. Following the clumsy yet lovable character of Tora-san as he stumbles across fun and mischief throughout Japan, Best of Tora-san celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first Tora-san film and the 80th anniversary of star Kiyoshi Atsumi’s birth. Having written and directed all but two of the 48 films, Yoji Yamada (Twilight Samurai) hand selects his top eight films, including three that are being presented for the first time with English subtitles. Best of Tora-san continues with monthly screenings through May 2009.
The Tora-san series chronicles the life of an unruly vagabond traveling through Japan with mostly the same characters and actors, following his gangly adventures and budding new love interests (“The Madonna”) in each film. In an age when cool yakuza superstars such as Ken Takakura and Yujiro Ishihara dominated the screen, actor Kiyoshi Atsumi as Tora-san emerged in 1969 as Japan’s comic anti-hero, and remained the country’s beloved icon for over 25 years. Over the years, Tora-san came to embody an old, distant world, humorously winning over vast audiences nostalgic for simpler times. To date, over 80 million people have seen Tora-san in theaters in Japan.
Friday, April 17, 7:30pm
Hearts and Flowers for Tora-san* (Episode 29 – Otoko wa tsuraiyo: Torajiro Ajisai no koi), 1982. Directed by Yoji Yamada. With Kiyoshi Atsumi, Chieko Baisho and Ayumi Ishida. After a debaucherous evening in Kyoto with Kano, an elegant older man, Tora-san wakes up in his home oblivious that he is the National Living Treasure of ceramics. Tora-san falls in love with his maid Kagari and follows her to her coastal hometown when she moves out after being abandoned by the man she was set to marry.
Friday, May 22, 7:30pm
Tora-san, My Uncle (Episode 42 – Otoko wa tsuraiyo: Boku no ojisan) 1989
Directed by Yoji Yamada. With Kiyoshi Atsumi, Chieko Baisho and Kumiko Goto.
Secretly in love with Izumi, Tora-san’s restless teenage nephew Mitsuo embarks on a motorcycle journey to find her in Saga, where she has moved with her aunt. On the way, he coincidentally runs into his uncle, and Tora-san joins him to try bringing the two together. Kumiko Goto stars as Izumi, who played the “Madonna” for four consecutive Tora-san films as Mitsuo’s love interest.
*Presented for the first time with English subtitles.
About Yoji Yamada
Born in Osaka in 1931, Yamada started work as an assistant director at Shochiku in 1954. In 1961, Yamada made a debut as a director with Nikai no tannin. He began work in 1969 on the Tora-san series. His other seminal works include Where Spring Comes Late (1970), Home from the Sea (1972), The Village (1975) as well as the award-winning Yellow Handkerchief (1977), My Sons (1991) and A Class to Remember (1993). Twilight Samurai (2002) was nominated for the American Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and Love and Honor (2006) won 13 categories of the Japan Academy Prize. His latest film, Kabee was invited to the Berlin international Film Festival’s Competition in 2008.
Tickets and Information
Tickets to screenings in the Best of Tora-san are $11 general/$7 members, students, seniors and students (first 20 tickets per screening, $7 thereafter). Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th St., between First and Second Aves (4/5/6 at 42nd St.-Grand Central Station or the E and V at Lexington Ave and 53rd St.) www.japansociety.org or call the box office at 212-715-1258.