December 17–30, 2020

Setsuko Hara Centenary: The Noriko Trilogy

Co-presented with the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre

In response to the new provincial health orders, The Cinematheque has closed the theatre and cancelled in-person screenings from November 23 through December 7. We have also momentarily suspended ticket sales for all future screenings.

In celebration of the 100th birthday of beloved Japanese actress and icon Setsuko Hara, The Cinematheque and the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre proudly present Yasujiro Ozu’s so-called “Noriko Trilogy,” the cycle of immortal masterworks, informally named after Hara’s onscreen counterparts, that endeared the luminous talent to movielovers the world over.

Born Masae Aida in 1920 in Yokohama, Japan, Setsuko Hara was given her stage name at the age of 15 by Nikkatsu Studios after being cast as a provincial shop owner’s daughter in Tetsu Taguchi’s 1935 film Do Not Hesitate, Young Folks! Her career and popularity flourished in wartime, during which she played tragic heroines whose resilience and unwavering patriotism, as in Tadashi Imai’s Suicide Troops of the Watchtower (1943), resonated with a nation in conflict. After Japan’s surrender, Hara was one of the key architects of a new, more progressive woman in Japanese cinema. Her role in Akira Kurosawa’s first postwar film, No Regrets for Our Youth (1946) — that rare picture by the director to showcase a female protagonist — was groundbreaking in its positive portrayal of female agency over familial obligation. (She would reunite with Kurosawa, five years later, for his Dostoevsky adaptation The Idiot). But it was her 12-year collaboration with Yasujiro Ozu, starting with 1949’s exquisite Late Spring, that cemented her legend and indelibly linked Hara with the nuanced, tenderhearted women she embodied in the Japanese master’s sublime domestic dramas.

Her (regressive) epithet as Japan’s “Eternal Virgin” stems from her earliest and most arresting performances for Ozu, in which she portrayed three devoted yet self-willed daughters, each named Noriko, who are reluctant to marry. Colloquially known as the “Noriko Trilogy,” these consecutive works — Late Spring, Early Summer (1951), Tokyo Story (1953) — are among cinema’s most serene and highly regarded treasures; they are also unthinkable without the grace, beauty, and subtle emotional complexity Hara affords them. “We would sigh or let out a great breath from the depths of our hearts,” wrote novelist Shusaku Endo of Hara, “for what we felt was precisely this: Can it be possible that there is such a woman in this world?” In life, Setsuko Hara never married, and following the death of Ozu in 1963, she abruptly retired from acting and withdrew from the public eye. She spent her remaining years in seclusion in the seaside city of Kamakura, and died in 2015 at the age of 95.

“Setsuko Hara was one of the great presences of world cinema.” Paul Schrader

“One of the greatest stars in cinema history … I defy anyone to watch [Tokyo Story] and not feel simply overwhelmed with a kind of love for Hara — however absurd that may sound.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian


The Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre honours, preserves, and shares Japanese culture and Japanese Canadian history and heritage for a better Canada. To learn more about their exhibitions, programs, and services, please visit

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Upcoming Screenings

  • Late Spring web1
  • Late Spring
  • Banshun
  • Japan1949
  • Yasujiro Ozu
  • 108 DCP
  • NR
  • Setsuko Hara Centenary
  • Early Summer web1
  • Early Summer
  • Bakushu
  • Japan1951
  • Yasujiro Ozu
  • 125 35mm
  • NR
  • Setsuko Hara Centenary
  • Tokyo Story web2
  • Tokyo Story
  • Tokyo monogatari
  • Japan1953
  • Yasujiro Ozu
  • 137 DCP
  • PG
  • Setsuko Hara Centenary

List of Programmed Films

Date Film Title Director(s) Year Country
2020-Dec Late Spring Yasujiro Ozu 1949 Japan
2020-Dec Early Summer Yasujiro Ozu 1951 Japan
2020-Dec Tokyo Story Yasujiro Ozu 1953 Japan