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**** “Twenty-Four Eyes.”
Sony. $59.95. 1954.
In 1954, Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” competed with Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Sansho the Bailiff” in Japan’s Kinema Junpo “Best Film of the Year” poll. But both masterpieces lost out to Keisuke Kinoshita’s huge domestic hit, “24 Eyes"--about a Japanese elementary school teacher (Hideko Takamine) and her relationship, from 1928 through post-World War II, with her first 12 first-graders (bonded together irrevocably on an arduous odyssey to visit their convalescing teacher). Though overrated in the poll, “24 Eyes” remains one of the supreme anti-war tear-jerkers in the Japanese cinema, filled with lyrical seaside landscapes and a shamelessly direct emotionalism--especially in one quietly devastating reunion scene. An underrated classic from Japan’s great postwar period: a withering indictment of social injustice, political hysteria and war--and a movie that can still make you weep.