Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When Women Ascend the Stairs

Two shots from Mikio Naruse's When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960). Director of photography: Masao Tamai.

Mikio Naruse, the George Cukor of Japanese cinema, eventually made eighty-nine films (forty-four of which have survived), though he was not discovered by Western audiences until years after his death in 1969, today he is recognized as one of the greatest Japanese filmmakers. He regularly chose to depict strong, working-class female characters. Naruse’s cinematic style, like Ozu's, is deceptively simple, clear and intelligent, informed by a sharp sense of logic. He occasionally allows himself small, poetic touches, such as the brief segments featuring the streets, traffic and bright, flickering signs of Tokyo, and unheard in Eastern cinema he has used a jazz score (playing mostly with Vibes) for his brilliant melodrama, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. Mark Saint-Cyr calls this film "a mini-masterpiece of composition and a poignant encapsulation of Naruse’s melancholic vision. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is a moving, assuredly-told tale of making ends meet and portrays a realistic, resolute breed of femininity."
I think two shots from When a Woman... explain the situation of most eastern women in postwar world. Where you must live and pay heavy dues for that.

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