Mikio Naruse

Mikio Naruse – Onna no naka ni iru tanin AKA The Stranger Within a Woman (1966)

Synopsis:
Tashiro (Keiju Kobayashi) coincidentally meets his best friend Sugimoto (Tatsuya Mihashi) in a bar very close to the apartment in which Sugimoto’s wayward wife is found dead. Although Tashiro is not a suspect in the police investigation, he is racked with guilt and confesses to his wife, Masako (Michiyo Aratama). In an effort to further relieve his tortured sense of guilt, he then confesses to Sugimoto. Neither his wife nor his friend can believe that he could have been involved. Read More »

Mikio Naruse – Midaregumo AKA Scattered Clouds AKA Two in the Shadow (1967)

Synopsis:
A husband and wife’s love for each other and plans for the future are shattered when the man dies in a car accident. Misery is compounded when the man’s parents disinherit his now widow and their former daughter-in-law. In the meanwhile, the chauffeur who accidentally killed a man is racked with guilt. In the melee, the driver and the widow begin to develop feelings for another. Read More »

Mikio Naruse – Yama no oto AKA Sound of the Mountain (1954)

Synopsis:
Sound of the Mountain is the story of the love between a daughter-in-law Kikuko (Setsuko Hara) and the father Shingo (So Yamamura) of her neglectful and selfish husband (Ken Uehara). Kikuko is locked into a loveless marriage. They live with his parents, and she is closest to her father in law. Kikuko doesn’t complain while her husband is having an affair. You want her to confront him, but she doesn’t. Kikuko finds out she is pregnant, doesn’t tell anyone and gets an abortion. As Shingo becomes more aware of Kikuko’s unhappiness, he takes ever more unconventional steps to rescue his son’s marriage. Read More »

Mikio Naruse – Tsuma no kokoro aka A Wife’s Heart (1956)

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Quote:
The best moments of A Wife’s Heart involve things not said or seen and this is most explicit in the interactions between Kiyoko (Hideko Takamine) and her bank clerk bachelor confidant Kenkichi (Toshiro Mifune). Kiyoko, along with her husband Shinji (Keiju Kobayashi), wants to open a coffee shop and so goes to Kenkichi to ask for a loan. Director Mikio Naruse never focuses on the duo’s talk of money; as filmed, their entire relationship is a series of beginnings and endings with the middles cut out. It is at first purely a business association, though after Shinji (at the manipulative behest of his matchmaker mother) gives a majority of the loan to his deadbeat brother Zenichi, Kiyoko starts to think that her feelings for Kenkichi may be more then platonic. Following through on his setup, Naruse never lets either character nakedly confess their heart’s desire. The closest they come is during a sequence, set against the backdrop of a torrential downpour, where Kenkichi utters the first few words of a thought that he will never finish. In other hands this scene might have played as masochistic repression, but Naruse allows the rainstorm to act as an expressive emotional outlet—nature thus concludes what Kenkichi cannot. Read More »

Mikio Naruse – Midareru AKA Yearning (1964)

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Slant Magazine wrote:
At first, Yearning appears to be a typically late-Narusian offering, a low-key and observational drama that obsessively details Reiko’s day-to-day routines. In addition to keeping her small business afloat, Reiko must deal with her meddling in-laws, who have their minds set on selling the grocery store, and also attend to Koji, who inexplicably indulges in a rebellious cycle of petty crime and violence. One of Naruse’s great talents is in making the mundane mysterious so when Koji declares, seemingly out of nowhere, that he’s been in love with Reiko for years, it takes more than a few moments to acclimate to the film’s suddenly malleable emotional terrain, even though, in retrospect, it makes perfect psychological sense. It’s a shock to witness how charged and raw the duo become after Koji’s admission, and Naruse’s camera, under the guiding eye of cinematographer Jun Yasumoto, never blinks, maintaining a harsh, voyeuristic presence as the characters move, like increasingly frenzied celestial bodies, through a space made unfamiliar because of a naked confessional moment. Read More »

Mikio Naruse – Aki tachinu aka Autumn Has Already Started (1960)

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Shigeko, a recently widowed mother from Nagano,brings Hideo,her sixth-grade son,to live with his uncle in Tokiyo.Shigeko soon gets a job at the Mishima hotel.The shy Hideo doesn´t respond wellto his newsurroundings,preferring the companyof hisKabutomushi (helmet beetle ) to that of other people.He does,however,meet Junko,daughter of the woman who runs the Mishima and the two become goods friends.Junko´s mother has a patron who supports her and one day he comes to the city with his legitimate family. Junko feels inferior to his real children.Hideo too experiences the sorrow ot wathching his mother Shigeko prepare to go out with one of her patrons (Tomioka).Meanwhile,his beetle disappears and he depends more and more on Juko for companionship.hideo´s aunt sends him a replacement beetle.Elated,he runs to tell Junko,only to discover that she has left Tokyo and the Mishima has been sold.Saddened,Hideo brings his beetle to the roof of a building and looks out on the Tokyo skyline. Read More »

Mikio Naruse – Shiroi yajuu aka White Beast (1950)

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Quote:
The third film that Naruse made in 1950, White Beast (Shiroi yaji, 1950), was described by Kinema Junpo critic Tsumura Hideo three years later as “so indescribably miserable as to haunt me even today.” Tsumura represents the bulk of Japanese critics of the time, who felt that Naruse experienced a terrible slump throughout the 1940s and this film seemed to be the “bottom of the ocean.” The critical establishment was clearly not prepared to accept a woman’s prison film featuring former prostitutes recovering from venereal diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and estranged lovers. With its catfights, hysterical tantrums, film noir lighting, and dramatic music, White Beast is indicative of the new influences of the Hollywood psychological thriller on Naruse. Caged (John Cromwell, 1950) initiated a cycle of women’s prison movies in the United States that may or may not have been shown in Japan, but the stylistics of White Beast draw on the same paranoid woman’s films and film noir conventions that preceded the American cycle. Read More »