The Snow Flurry ★★★½

A film by the prolific Japanese director Keisuke Kinoshita (many of which are available on the Criterion Channel). It's a sad tale centering on the fate of young wife who survives a double suicide and continues to live in her husband's home with her son from that marriage. The family treats her and the son with contempt (making them live practically as servants) but allows them to remain to preserve the family's honor. Also caught in the grips of this selfishly proud family is the granddaughter on whom the family pins hopes of marrying into a wealthy family, as they eventually fall on hard times.

The characters are either cruel and selfish (the grandparents) or self-sacrificing and impotent (the granddaughter and her parents, the widow and her son). It all sounds very bleak, but there is also a sad beauty to the film, as you see many widescreen shots of the agrarian countryside, the bridges and the rivers and streams underneath. The latter are regular reminders of the double suicide attempt that occurs near the start of the film.

Lovely direction and photography, it is not one of Kinoshita's better known films. But I was glad to have seen it. The acting was good, and there is a small role played by Chisu Ryu, who is in so many Ozu films. He plays the household servant, who is the kindest character in the film and shows both compassion and courage in trying to shield the more vulnerable characters from the cruelty of the grandparents. I was at times frustrated by the passivity and depression of the son, played quite well by Yasuke Kawazu. But the theme of fate is dominant here, and the characters largely seem to accept it.

Finally, after all this misery and unhappiness, there is some hope at the end of the film. Once the granddaughter is finally married to her wealthy suitor (which is her ticket away from this dysfunctional clan), the widow and her son prepare to leave and build a new life on their own. The hope is that they can do so.

I saw this on the Criterion Channel, and it is worth viewing.