Mikio Naruse

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artfilmfan
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Re: Forthcoming Lists Discussion and Random Speculation Vol.

#501 Post by artfilmfan » Thu Jun 05, 2014 11:09 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote: What does Naruse do very well? Non-verbal communication between characters, ... , great scenes of people walking together... superb editing... On a thematic level, showing people (usually women), who just don't give up.
There are plenty of these stuffs in Floating Clouds.

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Re: Forthcoming Lists Discussion and Random Speculation Vol.

#502 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jun 05, 2014 11:29 pm

artfilmfan wrote:There are plenty of these stuffs in Floating Clouds.
Absolutely!

(And there is some really intense black humor -- here and there).

I really do see Naruse as a (somewhat more subtle) precursor of Imamura. ;~}

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Re: Forthcoming Lists Discussion and Random Speculation Vol.

#503 Post by Cinepal » Fri Jun 06, 2014 1:08 am

artfilmfan wrote:
Michael Kerpan wrote: What does Naruse do very well? Non-verbal communication between characters, ... , great scenes of people walking together... superb editing... On a thematic level, showing people (usually women), who just don't give up.
There are plenty of these stuffs in Floating Clouds.
Especially the walking. Oh, I just love how in the beginning of "Floating Clouds" we see Masayuki Mori and Hideko Takamine walking through this post war Japan, and Naruse films from behind. I also really love how his films always are so good looking. Oh, and his female characters like Hideko Takamine always has these sad but beautiful looks on her face.

It would be a shame not to at least add "Floating Clouds" to the collection, seeing as it's in great condition on Hulu.

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Re: Forthcoming Lists Discussion and Random Speculation Vol.

#504 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jun 06, 2014 8:12 am

Possibly the most visually beautiful moment in Naruse will probably NEVER make it to DVD -- namely the Noh dance lessons in a forest glen in Uta Andon (song Lantern) -- absolutely amazing use of shade and light.

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Re: Forthcoming Lists Discussion and Random Speculation Vol.

#505 Post by Jack Phillips » Fri Jun 06, 2014 9:59 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:What does Naruse do very well? Non-verbal communication between characters, extremely atmospheric and interesting lighting, great scenes of people walking together. superb editing (fitting tiny pieces into fantastic mosaics). On a thematic level, showing people (usually women), who just don't give up.
To which we could add: impeccable taste in choosing properties to adapt.

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Re: Forthcoming Lists Discussion and Random Speculation Vol.

#506 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jun 06, 2014 10:26 am

Jack Phillips wrote:To which we could add: impeccable taste in choosing properties to adapt.
Surprisingly enough, he usually had very little say as to what sources his films would be based on. but he was dedicated to the works of Fumiko Hayashi -- and did eventually get the chance to adapt several of her works. Acording to one of his screen writers (not sure whether it was Yoko Mizuki or Sumie Tanaka), Naruse's main role in dealing with scripts was cutting immense amounts of dialog (and then conveying anything "essential" in the cut material by some sort of non-verbal means). Every now and then, he got stuck with a project that was too wordy -- and wasn't given the opportunity to do his typical ruthless dialog pruning, in which case you get a comparative clunker like Battle of the Roses.

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Re: Forthcoming Lists Discussion and Random Speculation Vol.

#507 Post by Jack Phillips » Fri Jun 06, 2014 12:17 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Jack Phillips wrote:To which we could add: impeccable taste in choosing properties to adapt.
Surprisingly enough, he usually had very little say as to what sources his films would be based on. but he was dedicated to the works of Fumiko Hayashi -- and did eventually get the chance to adapt several of her works.
Are you saying that Floating Clouds, Late Chrysanthemums (from the stories Bangiku/Suisen/Shirasagi), Wife, Lightning, and Meshi were studio assignments? Amazing if true. Btw, do you happen to know whose idea it was to put together the stories that make up Late Chrysanthemums?

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#508 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jun 06, 2014 12:37 pm

I think Naruse did campaign (as much as someone rather diffident like him could campaign) for the opportunity to do the Hayashi adaptations. He had wanted to do Crybaby Apprentice way back in 1938, but it was directed by Toyoda instead. But these Fumiko were the exception rather than the rule. Generally he just tackled what he was assigned. Even so, he didn't get to make a couple of Toho's Hayashi adaptations in the later 50s (Shitamachi and Onna kazoku). (Nonetheless, Shitamachi _sounds_ like a must-see-- and stars Mifune -- but is completely unavailable).

I can't recall just how Late Chrysanthemums was assembled (by Sumie Tanaka and Toshiro Ide), but the script really is quite a tour de force -- tying these basically unrelated (except as to milieu) films together.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#509 Post by Jack Phillips » Fri Jun 06, 2014 4:41 pm

Huh, I always assumed that the reason Naruse did so many Hayashi adaptations is because he chose them. But I guess if he was assigned one early on and it was successful (like Meshi), the studio could decide that he and Hayashi were a good match and keep assigning others.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#510 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jun 06, 2014 5:07 pm

I think when Naruse was on good terms with Toho management, producers let him do some things they thought he would especially like doing. But he always had to take on more pot-boiler-ish assignments. (Just like Ford, during much of his career). Only someone with the clout of Ozu or Kurosawa could pick and choose (most of the time).

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#511 Post by Jack Phillips » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:02 am

This subject continues to interest me, so last night I dipped into Russell to see if she had anything germane to say. First, I found her comment on the production of Lightning interesting:
This film was made at Daiei studio, with Tanaka Sumie, who also worked on Meshi, as scriptwriter. Although it is not clear why Naruse went to Daiei for this picture, the fact that he was able to work with Takamine and Tanaka indicates the extent of the “borrowing” practices that went on within the industry. Naruse’s success with Lightning (which won second place in the Kinema Junpo’s 1952 rankings) and Meshi encouraged Toho executives to pair Naruse again with Hayashi, and in the seven films he ended up making from her stories, she arguably had a postwar revival, despite her untimely death in 1951.
242
As you see, she can't account for the move to Daiei, but I have to wonder if perhaps Naruse went there because they would let him do a property that was facing resistance at Toho. Anyway, Russell must be right that after scoring a second success with a Hayashi novel, management at Toho was keen to let Naruse do more such adaptations.

Russell also suggests that Naruse may have found conditions at Toho congenial because of a certain producer.
Fujimoto Sanezumi, who produced nine of Naruse’s films during this mid-1950s period, also directed three of the director’s films during the war and three during the occupation. According to Nogami Teruyo, he was blacklisted and subsequently depurged in 1952, although her dates are not consistent with other reports. Thus, while the model of the director system established by Kiro Shido at Shochiku prevailed as the most successful system in postwar Japan, and both Kurosawa and Naruse were established as the heads of production units at Toho, Naruse’s kumi also included a powerful producer whose role in the stability and success of the director’s career through the 1950s should not be underestimated.
228
I'm of course speculating here, but might Fujimoto have provided the necessary buffer between Naruse and management that allowed Naruse to do what he wanted, but with the full consent of his employers?

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#512 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jun 07, 2014 12:28 pm

Usually studio directors only worked for other studios when they were loaned out (possibly as part of a deal to borrow actors/actresses for some other project). Naruse also worked elsewhere during periods of labor trouble at Toho.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#513 Post by Jack Phillips » Sat Jun 07, 2014 1:39 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:Usually studio directors only worked for other studios when they were loaned out (possibly as part of a deal to borrow actors/actresses for some other project).
Yes, of course, standard industry practice. I think Russell's point, though, was that there was something about the Lightning project that was non-standard. For example, Naruse got to bring Takamine, Toho's big star. By way of contrast, when Ozu went to Daiei for Floating Weeds, he used for his lead Ganjirô Nakamura, who was not a Shochiku actor. But these deals are complicated, perhaps uniquely so in each case, and anyway, Russell admits she doesn't know the whole story.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#514 Post by Jack Phillips » Sun Jun 08, 2014 2:46 pm

Some more from Russell:
Meshi was originally scheduled to be directed by Chiba Yasuki and was offered to Naruse only when Chiba became ill. Ide Toshiro says that it was unusual for Naruse to be asked to substitute for a younger and less established director, and moreover, because he had not made a successful film since the 1930s, some Toho executives were reluctant to give him such a valuable star-studded property to direct. Ever the company man, Naruse humbly accepted the project, and its huge success propelled him into the next decade with a string of critical and commercial hits.
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This supports what you were saying: Naruse didn't so much choose Meshi as he lucked into it. Then, given its success, the studio gave him other Hayashi assignments to adapt. Still, I find it strange that Toho would loan out a formula that was a proven success (Naruse-Hayashi-Tanaka) to Daiei for the Lightning project, but I guess stranger things have happened.

The bad news is, if Lightning is with Daiei, we'll never see an English-friendly DVD of it.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#515 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Jun 08, 2014 8:16 pm

Actually the "no successful film since the 30s" meme is inaccurate. Naruse may not have won any prizes, but he had made a number of successful films (i.e. ones that made money). For instance, Naruse's lost "Delinquent Girl" (NOT made for Toho -- but for a minor studio during Toho's labor strife) was quite popular -- so popular that all the prints and negative were apparently worn out (and then discarded).

While Naruse didn't _choose_ Meshi, he certainly would have _wanted_ to make a film of it.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#516 Post by Cinepal » Thu Jun 12, 2014 1:16 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:Possibly the most visually beautiful moment in Naruse will probably NEVER make it to DVD -- namely the Noh dance lessons in a forest glen in Uta Andon (song Lantern) -- absolutely amazing use of shade and light.
I have to see this now. I wonder, how were you able to see so many Naruse films?

Also, I was struck by how beautiful "The Stranger Within A Woman" looked. Especially the scenes in the rain, when the main character is just staring out the window. Oh, and that final scene on the beach which is kind of reminiscent of the magical beach scene in Ozu's "Early Summer"

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#517 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:15 am

I was one of the founding members of the "we really need to track down and digitize every Naruse film shown on Japanese TV -- so that we can see every surviving Naruse film" club.

"Stranger Within a Woman" is a pretty wild film. Visually it seems to have a deliberately retro look -- high-contrast black and white, Academy format. Definitely Naruse noir (and much more successful at this than his next film "Hit and Run"). The beach scene in Stranger has quite a different significance than that similar scene in Ozu. ;~}

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#518 Post by mattkc » Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:15 pm

Oddly, of all Naruse's films, I feel "Stranger Within a Woman" is the one that comes closest to being visually monotonous, almost to the point of being mind-numbing. It's highly intriguing at first, not least of all for its lighting and elliptical match-cutting; the first few scenes have a remarkable anticipatory and nightmarish quality about them; but visually it becomes so unimaginative and redundant, following the same editing patterns and compositional motifs (like the grandmother framed with the television set), that I could not, in any of my half-dozen viewings, understand how Naruse let such a potent opportunity go to waste. Its style would make a great template for a run-of-the-mill ghost story or something of the like, but it can't carry any of Naruse's lithe subtly. Without the emotional ambiguities, the supple gestures of the actors, the close-ups and panning shots between two characters in Naruse's films would be routine, and so numerous as to preclude the possibility of having an impact. As is the case here, where they're static in every way and employed exactly where any anonymous director would put them. Maybe it could have been saved with a little black humor, but this more or less seems deadly serious. No film better represents what Naruse's style would look like sans all of its positive qualities... Only its unique appearance and subject-matter make it more memorable than other weak outings. Memorable, but not as watchable!

Well, sorry for the polemic. I just watched it the other day. I return to it now and then in the hopes that I'm wrong... but it's my least favorite Naruse. I thought "Hit and Run" was much more powerful. At least, it's strong enough to be unsettling.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#519 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:16 pm

Well the scripts of the antepenultimate and penultimate Naruse films were problematic -- happily his ultimate film was one of his best late ones. ;~}

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#520 Post by Quot » Sun Jun 22, 2014 2:57 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:What does Naruse do very well? Non-verbal communication between characters, extremely atmospheric and interesting lighting, great scenes of people walking together. superb editing (fitting tiny pieces into fantastic mosaics). On a thematic level, showing people (usually women), who just don't give up.
I've only seen about half as many Naruse films as Michael, and when I began, I remembered hearing that one of his defining qualities as a technician was his masterful use of space in limited, interior settings. However, adding to the list of things that Naruse did extremely well (although it was somewhat sparingly used in his films) was his brilliant use of exterior filming with some of his on-location shots. As Michael has pointed out, there are great examples in films like Older Brother, Younger Sister, Autumn Approaches, The Song Lantern, Spring Awakens, to name a few.

Michael, have you seen many of Heinosuke Gosho's films? There's one that, to me, is strikingly similar to Naruse's work: Wakare-gumo / Dispersed Clouds. I quite like it and wondered if you had seen it.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#521 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jun 23, 2014 7:54 am

I've seen quite a few Gosho film. Some I like a lot. Alas, Dispersed Clouds is one I was never able to see. My sense is that Gosho rarely developed the natural flow (via filming/editing) that was Naruse's norm.

Favorite outdoor scenes in Naruse include a number of location shots in Apart From You (especially when the two young fol visit the girl's home town, and nearby shore). But I think Shimizu was the number one master of location shooting.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#522 Post by Grisbi » Mon Jul 07, 2014 9:41 pm

I've just watched Naruse's last film Scattered Clouds, and was completely blown away - it easily sits beside Lightning and Late Chrysanthemums as the very best of the 15 or so Naruse's I've seen to date (all at least very good).

In Audie Bock's book there's a part where according to Hideko Takamine one of the last things Naruse shared with her before his death was an idea for a film shot entirely against white curtain backdrops so as to give fullest concentration to the nuance of movement and feeling. A very revealing and extreme concept for a film that probably would never have been made, nevertheless I was constantly reminded of it during Scattered Clouds, as there are moments I thought where Naruse comes awfully close to achieving that degree of radically charged minimalism, most notably during the astonishing sequence where Yumiko nurses Mishima overnight in the depopulated hotel, but also in smaller moments such as the lunch scene between Yumiko and her soon to be deceased husband right at the beginning - there's not a single visual or aural element present at any time that's not given a quiet value and not intensely attuned in to the fragile emotional dynamics in play. A lot of Naruse's other work shares this characteristic of course, but I've never felt it put across with so much, I guess I'll say "purity", before, it was really astonishing and mysterious to me. A true masterpiece.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#523 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:22 am

Scattered Clouds is indeed wonderful. It is almost as if Naruse has said, no more sensationalism -- I want to do MY kind of film one last time. Interestingly the screenwriter for this is best known FOR more sensationalist films -- like "A Colt is My Pasport" and "Black Sun" and "Assassination".

I will say that I _really_ want to believe there is an after-story to this film...

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#524 Post by yoshimori » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:16 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:Scattered Clouds is indeed wonderful.
My favorite of the 20 or so Naruses I've seen. [Though, to be sure, I'm nearly as big a Naruse fan as most posters here.]

I'm surprised this one doesn't seem to be English-friendly available. … Or am I wrong?

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#525 Post by Jack Phillips » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:32 pm

yoshimori wrote:
Michael Kerpan wrote:Scattered Clouds is indeed wonderful.
My favorite of the 20 or so Naruses I've seen. [Though, to be sure, I'm nearly as big a Naruse fan as most posters here.]

I'm surprised this one doesn't seem to be English-friendly available. … Or am I wrong?
It's available on HuluPlus.

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