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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
The Life of Miss PebbleOct. 16 2008
Jack M. Walter
- Published on Amazon.com
This movie has been considered a classic in Japan since its release in 1954, and it's easy to see why. It begins as a charming, innocent portrait of a new teacher and her first grade class and slowly deepens into a touching yet realistic depiction of how each child's life goes on in its own way. Some of the children prosper, some fall into poverty and tragedy, but the matter-of-fact way that profound emotional issues are handled in this film without putting off the viewer is a feat that has never been accomplished so well before or since. A truly remarkable piece of art.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The simple joys & sorrows of lifeApril 21 2009
William Timothy Lukeman
- Published on Amazon.com
I didn't quite know what to expect from this film ... but as the last of its 156 minutes played, I wished it could have been even longer, although that would have meant a few more lumps in the throat & teary-eyed moments. It's a deeply moving film, and its sentimental scenes are truly earned & not the least bit gratuitous or pandering.
The story: a young woman begins her first teaching job on a small island village in Japan, with 12 students in her first grade class (hence the 24 eyes of the title). This opening sequence is charming & gentle, with the worst of the children's problems & woes easily mended with a few kind words & an understanding heart.
But as the children grow older, remaining in touch with their beloved teacher over the years, the harsher aspects of life begin to take their toll. First the Great Depression, then the rise of Japanese militarism -- and the teacher can only watch, sick at heart, as promising futures are dashed & redirected by family & social pressures.
While set in Japan during a specific period of history, the themes are timeless & universal, sad to say. When Japan continues its buildup to the Second World War, the patriotic songs & marches seem all too familiar -- as do the warnings from higher-ups in the school system that their job is to create obedient, patriotic citizens, willing to serve the state without question. It's made clear to our troubled teacher that any mention of other, antiwar possibilities are strictly forbidden, lest she be accused of being "a Red."
Yet she does what she can, telling her male students that she'd be just as proud of them for becoming farmers or clerks or rice merchants, rather than becoming soldiers. The boys, of course, are caught up in shining visions of military glory & honor, without the slightest notion of the dark & bloody reality behind them.
At the same time, she also struggles to help her female students become more than what family & society have prepared them to be ... not always successfully. Why does she struggle against such hopeless odds? Not so much for political or ideological reasons, but because of her individual compassion & spirit. These struggles even go on within her own family, as her husband is drafted & her own young sons dream of becoming soldiers themselves.
Covering nearly 20 years, the film has an elegiac tone, a sense of memories washing up over & over again upon the same shore which opens & closes the film. Hideko Takamine is superb as the teacher, nicknamed "Miss Pebble" by her students, changing over the years from the fresh-faced young woman who appears in Western clothes, riding a bicycle through the shocked village, to the middle-aged woman both wounded & tempered by loss & grief, still refusing to surrender to despair.
156 minutes may sound daunting, but don't let that stop you from watching this richly rewarding film. Most highly recommended!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
One of the great movies of the worldJune 14 2012
Morris G. Vescovi
- Published on Amazon.com
I first saw this film in my early 20's. The local PBS station in Tucson, Arizona was showing classic foreign films on Friday nights. After 15 or 20 minutes I was hooked. At that time this was not the kind of film I was going out of my way to see, being a guy who loved westerns, historical epics and science fiction and horror films.In 1928 a new teacher arrives in a small town on a Japanese island where she has 12 students, The film follows her life and her student's lives over the next 20 plus years. It's sometimes tragic sometimes happy but always incredibly moving. The film also depicts the war years and the censorship and militarism that the teacher has to contend with and it is a very down beat depiction. I showed this film several years ago to my best friend who is a retired teacher. He was also very moved as I had been when I first saw it. What surprised him was that the teacher in the film faced many of the same problems he faced such as the problems he had with school administrators, parents and school policies, and also that some of the school children were similar to students he had had even though this film was made in another country, another culture and was made 58 years ago. This film shows that most people are in many ways basically alike.
The Criterion edition is fantastic and the subtitles are great. This film has my highest recommendation.
22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
An Anti-War Movie Based on Sorrow and LossJuly 11 2008
Gerard D. Launay
- Published on Amazon.com
When the Japanese lost the war, this trauma had to be explained and given meaning. Ironically, shortly after Hiroshima, certain Japanese films critiqued the aggressive militarism that led to the disaster [See Kurosawa's "No Regrets for our Youth]. Then, the Japanese films changed. They stopped focusing on their own culpability in the disaster or their own war crimes, and concentrated on the loss, tragedy, and sorrow of losing so many Japanese sons. This film, "Twenty-Four Eyes," fits into that category...and for that reason has been so popular in Japan for fifty years.
As an example, when World War II looms, the boy students talk about becoming soldiers. Their teacher, Ms Oishe, responds that she prefers fishermen or rice sellers to soldiers. Later she is criticized gently for her "lack of patriotism" in her speech to the boys. To be fair, one aspect of anti-militarism ..the loss of freedom of speech...is well handled.
The story focuses on a self-sacrificing teacher and her relationship to 12 students over two decades. Everything is filmed around a small village bordering the ocean. Over these many years, the female teacher forges strong emotional bonds with all her students...and so when the boys go to war...and some don't return, her deep, personal loss is as extreme as that of a parent. The themes are reinforced though the changing moods of the sea or of the folk songs which the school chants. It's a very finely done film, although perhaps overly sentimental for my tastes. A great deal of attention is given to the serene, contemplative cinematography.
But...the director certainly never addresses the many injustices practiced by the Japanese on so many other Asian peoples. It reminded me, in a way, of the Buddhist movie "The Burmese Harp"...another excellent anti-war film that also sidesteps the issue of Japanese culpability. Nevertheless, few films are so poignantly intimate in treating the loss of life in war as this Japanese study. It does this because it slowly acquaints the viewer with the daily lives of the twelve boys and girls - all adorable - who grow up with their teacher in the small, poor village on the sea. In other words, the memory of the soldiers...as children...is a very important perspective because what this film does, which no other movie does quite as well, is to depict war as The Death of Innocence.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
True artJuly 17 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
One should be very careful when one uses superlatives, but, `Twenty-Four Eyes' is one of the best movies ever made. Moreover, it is more than ever highly topical, albeit shot in black and white. It is the story of the emotional link between a junior teacher and her class of 12 children.
Keisuke Kinoshita's movie tackles directly such crucial issues as freedom of speech (if you speak out against the war, you could lose your job), as calling a spade a spade (a war means simply killing people), as the choice between war and peace, between love and hate, between care (for the children) and selfishness and between sincerity and deceit or worse denouncement. His movie makes one understand that there is an all powerful authority which intervenes behind the scene in people's lives, by manipulating public opinion and by trying to turn the population (and mostly its children and young men) into deaf-mute pawns in order to use them as cannon fodder. Another means is starving the dissidents by firing them. Keisuke Kinoshita's characters are anchored in real life with its poverty (nothing to eat, or no money to go to school), its illnesses (tuberculosis), its accidents and, most importantly, the war and its victims.
Keisuke Kinoshita knows what true art is. It is not an expression of emotions, but the creation of emotions (involvement) into the spectator's heart. His movie stands in sharp contrast with the actual avalanche of movie products pieced together with Meccano aliens (concocted with special effects) fighting human killers, while both are shouting their immoral gospel of violence and death. A truly cold world, and in no way the warm atmosphere created by Keisuke Kinoshita's school teacher.
`Twenty-Four Eyes' was shot by a director with a big heart, who made simply an everlasting sublime movie. A must see.