Mikio Naruse Collection (BFI) DVD
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Directed by Mikio Naruse
Produced in 1954 - 1960
Main Language - Japanese with English subtitles
It seems the West is finally catching up with the exquisite work of Mikio Naruse (1905-1969), a contemporary of Mizoguchi and Ozu, and a filmmaker whose great sensitivity to postwar Japanese cultural and emotional pressures ranks him among the world’s greatest moviemakers.
By all accounts, a quiet and self-effacing artist, Naruse often crafted fine melodramas reflecting modern loneliness and isolation, but infused them with strong, resilient characters (usually women) who navigate life’s difficulties with a powerful sense of personal integrity. Like the Hollywood auteur Douglas Sirk, Naruse fashions stories about domestic disillusionment, but highlights the inner life with such precision and clarity that he makes even the most everyday setting seem monumental.
The British Film Institute now offers three of Naruse’s most esteemed classics along with a bevy of critical supplements, beginning with When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960). This heartbreaking and immersive masterpiece focuses on a successful bar hostess who dreams of consolidating her resources – financial as well as social – in order to establish her own business. But like the foreboding entryway she ascends each evening to meet her demanding clientele, her dream seems continuous and ever receding. Naruse’s widescreen compositions, use of light jazz, and his colorful ensemble cast bring the film into vivid, memorable relief.
Several of Naruse’s best films were adaptations of famed postwar novelist Fumiko Hayashi; such is the case with the other two films in this collection. Floating Clouds (1955) is Naruse’s most popular film in Japan, detailing an affair between wartime lovers who meet abroad but reunite in postwar, defeated Japan; the woman’s frustrated attempts to initiate commitment mirror her country’s turbulent milieu caught in the throes of dramatic social change. Late Chrysanthemums (1958) – combining several Hayashi stories – is a masterly portrait of the interactions of four aging, former geishas who compare and contrast their midlife worldviews through a complex network of relationships. The film adds surprising warmth and humor to Naruse’s typically sober inclinations, and it’s aided tremendously by Ozu regular Haruko Sugimura, who offers a mulilayered performance as a character who treasures her investments above all matters of the heart.
A collection of three of Mikio Naruse's finest films.
Features When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960), an elegant black and white Cinemascope melodrama in which a bar hostess attempts to escape her lot; Floating Clouds (1955) and Late Chrysanthemums (1954).
"Naruse’s films celebrate, without extravagance, the lives of ordinary people struggling for something better than the hand fate has dealt them. Performed with quiet certainty by superb actors, shot and edited with a sure and elentless hand, they raise the ordinary and even the sordid to a quality near sublime." Audie Bock, Artforum.
Length: 321 mins
Aspect ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Wide Screen
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 26th November 2007
Cat No: BFIVD694
- 3 discs
- Exclusive commentaries on each film by Japanese cinema expert Freda Freiberg
- extensive filmed interviews with Freda Freiberg, Paul Willemen and filmmaker Teruo Ishii (Naruse’s assistant)
- trailer for When a Woman Ascends the Stairs
- fully illustrated booklet with essays.
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