“Why do you seek to tear off your own wings?”
Fuyuko (Hideko Takamine) and Keizo (Takahiro Tamura) were in love, before the war. But Keizo has been gone, having left his hometown five years ago.
Returning for a 10-day visit before being transferred to a different part of the country, Keizo finds the memories flooding back. He’s reunited with his family and all of his old friends, including Fuyuko.
Fuyuko’s life has changed dramatically in the past five years. After being widowed, she felt her only option would be to marry her husband’s surviving brother (Keiji Sada) — a wealthy man who can take care of her family, but with whom she will likely be very unhappy.
Will reuniting with Keizo change Fuyuko’s life for the better, or bring complications and trouble?
The Tattered Wings was directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, from a screenplay Kinoshita co-wrote with Zenzo Matsuyama. The film is also known as Distant Clouds, a more direct translation of its original Japanese title, Tooi kumo.
Appropriately, this was my first watch with my recently-revived FilmStruck subscription! Kinoshita is a director I actually discovered through FilmStruck with my original subscription, and I’ve been very excited to watch more of his films now that I have access.
My expectations were high based on my previous two Kinoshita discoveries (The Girl I Loved and Woman), and The Tattered Wings did not disappoint.
One of the things I’ve loved about all three of these films is the fact that they feel so authentic and natural. Kinoshita is fantastic at reflecting on the particulars of society and interpersonal relationships, within the scope of a very specific place and time.
The Tattered Wings takes us to the post-war Japanese countryside, where there seems to be a very strong push-and-pull dynamic between tradition and modernity. From the dancing and music to the styles of dress to the cultural attitudes (and the townspeople’s opinions about Fuyuko’s love triangle), Kinoshita does a great job of balancing Western influences with Japan’s cultural heritage, bringing in themes of conformity and emotional suppression.
The weight of expectation (and the threat of social exile) create a fairly oppressive atmosphere in town. The film’s opening reflects this. A train rolls through the beautiful, open countryside, to arrive in a wholly different environment: a town of closed spaces, overlapping streets… and plenty of gossip.
The Tattered Wings is every bit as well-made as it is thought-provoking. It’s wonderfully shot by Hiroshi Kusuda. Hideko Takamine gives a top-notch, contemplative performance in her role of Fuyuko. The film is somewhat slowly-paced, but not in a sluggish way — just offering a “slice of life” feel.
All of the drama is wrapped up with a beautiful, heartbreaking ending which made me love the film even more. If you’ve got a FilmStruck subscription or can find the film elsewhere, it’s definitely not one to miss!
Thanks for writing about this! I’ve watched so many Kinoshita movies on FilmStruck and Hulu (back when Criterion was on there) that a lot of them have run together; from the title alone, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you which one this was, but after reading your post, I definitely remember it and want to revisit it.
I love that they have so many of his films available! I can see how they’d run together the more I watch, but I just find his style so engrossing in the moment. I’ve really loved the three I’ve watched so far!
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Yes, it’s great that they have so many, especially since he’s not as well known as Kurosawa, Ozu or Mizoguchi, for example. He worked in quite a few different genres too, from subtle domestic dramas to quirky comedies to thrillers. Some are better than others, naturally, but his filmography is well worth exploring. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed his work so far!