YEARNING (Mikio Naruse, 1964)

One of Mikio Naruse’s most realistic and piercing works, and one that is intermittently beautifully Ozuvian, Midareru examines the unraveling of a family whose old-fashioned market cannot compete with the new supermarket across the street—an impersonal corporate-owned consumer playground that can offer identical items at a much lower price. Japan’s new killer competitive spirit is […]

SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN (Mikio Naruse, 1954)

Three bad marriages interlock in Yama no oto, based on Nobel Prize-winning Yasunari Kawabata’s novel, which Yôko Mizuki adapted. Director Mikio Naruse, perhaps overwhelmed by the novelistic character of the script, has not realized, precisely, a film, although a summary meeting by the two main characters in a Tokyo park, exceptionally fluent, knocks one’s socks […]

LATE CHRYSANTHEMUMS (Mikio Naruse, 1954)

“Money is everything,” someone remarks in Bangiku, Mikio Naruse’s masterpiece based on three stories by Fumiko Hayashi: “Bangiku,” “Suisen” and “Shirasagi.” Postwar Tokyo; Japan suffers a depressed economy. Four retired geishas are depressed also on other grounds: their youth and beauty, and hopefulness, have faded. Indeed, Okin faces no financial crisis; a landowner, landlord and […]

FLOATING CLOUDS (Mikio Naruse, 1955)

Ukigumo, the perfect title of this absorbing, deeply affecting film, comes from the 1951 novel, by Fumiko Hayashi, on which it is based. (I’m presuming that the English translation is accurate.) Recurrent shots of the two principal characters aimlessly walking give form to the drifting, uncertain nature of postwar Japanese lives following defeat and during […]

FLOWING (Mikio Naruse, 1956)

Isuzu Yamada gives the performance of a lifetime as Otsuta (best actress, Kinema Junpo, Blue Ribbon, Mainichi Film Concours Awards), who runs a financially struggling, heavily in-debt geisha house in Tokyo, as the custom fades into history, in Mikio Naruse’s Nagareru, based on Aya Koda’s novel. Yamada is highly particular, delicately nuanced, complex, forceful, sad […]