'Only Yesterday' to be shown June 7 in Masters of Japanese Cinema series

The last Masters of Japanese Cinema film for this season is Takahata Isao’s 1991 feature "Only Yesterday."  It will screen at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, at the Pickford Film Center, 318 Bay Street in Bellingham.

Most people will know Takahata from his searing 1988 film "Grave of the Fireflies," a film that originally screened as a double feature with "My Neighbor Totoro." "Only Yesterday" has only recently been made available in the U.S., 25 years after its initial release, making it one of the least-known Studio Ghibli films in this country.

A coming of age story, "Only Yesterday" is about a young woman named Taeko who is 27 and living in Tokyo when she chooses to spend her vacation working on a farm belonging to her sister’s in-laws. While preparing for her trip, memories of when she was in fifth grade return to her, and the film switches back and forth between the two time periods, even blending them together.

While the film was based on a manga originally published in the '80s, the entire storyline involving the adult Taeko was devised by Takahata, elevating what could have been an exercise in nostalgia into something much richer, thereby creating a subtle examination of being a young adult trying to find one's way in the world, reminding us of the lessons we draw – sometimes mistakenly – from our pasts.

Co-sponsored by Western Libraries and the Pickford Film Center, the Masters of Japanese Cinema is one of the Pickford's longest-running and most-loved series, featuring some of the best films in World Cinema with movies that span both decades and genres. Each film in the series begins with an introduction from select speakers including local professors, artists, and educators. Series curator and WWU librarian Jeff Purdue will introduce "Only Yesterday," which he says is his favorite Ghibli film.

“If you think you don’t like anime, this is really the one to see,” Purdue said. “In many ways, it’s reminiscent of classic films by Ozu and Naruse.  This seems to be an intentional homage, since the film’s credits play over a drawn version of the burlap backgrounds that Ozu used in most of his film credits.”

To learn more about upcoming films featured in this series, click on this link. If you have questions about the Masters of Japanese Cinema Series, contact Jeff.Purdue@wwu.edu.