Mikio Naruse

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Mikio Naruse

#526 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:36 pm

I think I must have at least 30 Naruse favorites, so it makes it hard to pick just one. Nonetheless, for honorary purposes, I anointed "Repast" -- which is likely to hold its title, just as "Tokyo Story" holds a similar spot as my honorary Ozu favorite.

Someday I may get around to signing up for Hulu Plus -- but not until we get a better Internet connection....

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#527 Post by yoshimori » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:43 pm

The Hulu+ stream of Scattered Clouds is quite good. Nice resolution and color. Still, it's no substitute for a blu-ray.

And, off-topic, the wealth of Hulu+ Kinoshita titles alone is worth the price of several months' subscription. Lots of other classic Japanese films there too.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#528 Post by Dansu Dansu Dansu » Tue Jul 08, 2014 3:03 pm

I'm curious to hear the consensus on Yearning. I rarely hear anyone mention it, and yet not only do I think it's Naruse's best film, I think it's one of the best Japanese films ever made.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#529 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jul 08, 2014 3:24 pm

Unfortunately, Kinoshita availability isn't mucjh of a selling point for me -- if they had lots of Uchida, Shimizu, Shimazu, Gosho, Toyoda, Imai, or Ichikawa, I'd sign up in a flash.

I think most people here who have seen Yearning love it. The last section (train vovage through the end) is utterly wonderful -- and the first part is very good.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#530 Post by YnEoS » Tue Jul 08, 2014 5:38 pm

Yearning ranked #53 in our last iteration of the 1960s list, so it clearly has some admirers on this forum. I'm still not too sure which are the consensus titles in Naruse's filmography. It seems like there are just Naruse fans who can give you a big list of their favorite films, and then people who haven't taken the dive yet. I can't think of too many tent-pole films that most cinephiles will have seen regardless of if they're big Naruse fans or not, like some other directors have.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#531 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jul 08, 2014 5:59 pm

The most widely seen Naruse film in the US is When the Woman Ascends the Stairs... Because this is the only Naruse talkie available in the US. Even before this, however, it was one of the only Naruse films many people had seen. It had a great video release (from World Artists Home Video), so it was one of the only easily rentableNaruse films in the VHS era.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#532 Post by artfilmfan » Tue Jul 08, 2014 6:42 pm

Over the years, Scattered Clouds has become my third favorite Naruse film, behind Floating Clouds and When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. For me, Scattered Clouds has served a similar purpose as Ozu's Equinox Flower (which also has become my third favorite Ozu film, behind Late Spring and Early Summer), in the sense that whenever I want to watch an excellent and beautiful-looking film of Naruse's, I often choose it.

I think Late Chrysanthemums also got a VHS release in the U.S. There's also a VHS of Mother; but I don't know whether it was officially released in the U.S. or an import. But, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs was/is certainly the one that's better known since it was more often carried by video rental stores. I also still have a VHS copy of it ... and VHS copies of some Ozu films :)

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#533 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:43 pm

Yes, WAHV also released Late Chrysanthemums, but this was not so flamboyant a film (and didn't look as spectacular -- mind you, I was very glad to have this). It also prepared a release of "Wife! Be Like A Rose!" (paired with Flunky, Work Hard!), but had to abandon its plan when licensing fell through. Sony issued Mother in a very deluxe edition right near the outset of the home video era -- but it was long out of print when I finally discovered Naruse in 2000. The WAHV videos remained in print for the first couple of years in the 2000s -- and I thanked the gentleman who ran it profusely for his efforts on behalf of Naruse. He really wanted to do a DVD of WtWAtS, but never could arrange for this.

(My video of WtWAtS was eaten by a VHS player that died quite abruptly -- it broke my heart).

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#534 Post by artfilmfan » Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:22 pm

The very last VHS player that I had ate a copy of Snow Country :( I had to retire it.

Here's holding out hope that Criterion will someday release a very large boxset of Naruse films.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#535 Post by Dansu Dansu Dansu » Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:55 am

YnEoS wrote:Yearning ranked #53 in our last iteration of the 1960s list, so it clearly has some admirers on this forum.
I have to admit, I'm part of the reason for that. A large part, actually... :oops:
artfilmfan wrote:The very last VHS player that I had ate a copy of Snow Country :(
Based on the Kawabata novel? Several years ago, I devoured most of his output and desperately wanted to see this adaptation. How is it?

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#536 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:06 am

Also never managed to see Snow Country...

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#537 Post by artfilmfan » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:53 am

Yes, the adaptation of Kawabata's novel. I liked it. Keiko Kishi is great in it. I like this one better than the (color) remake. Both versions were released in Japan on DVDs (w/o subtitles).
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Re: Mikio Naruse

#538 Post by YnEoS » Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:52 am

Dansu Dansu Dansu wrote:
YnEoS wrote:Yearning ranked #53 in our last iteration of the 1960s list, so it clearly has some admirers on this forum.
I have to admit, I'm part of the reason for that. A large part, actually... :oops:
210 points ain't no single person effort, though perhaps it's more the case that 3 of us being crazy Naruse fanatics, and 3 others who liked the film well enough, more than some overall favorable forum consensus (if I'm interpreting the list stats properly).

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#539 Post by swo17 » Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:04 am

There was no less of a consensus for Yearning than there was for any other film in the 50-60 range of that list. It even got more votes than Lawrence of Arabia!

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#540 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:16 am

Even in the 60s, Naruse had a lot of top contenders -- When the Woman Ascends the Stairs..., Approach of Autumn, As a Wife, As a Woman, A Wanderer's Notebook, Yearning and Scattered Clouds.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#541 Post by Emak-Bakia » Wed Jul 09, 2014 11:34 am

I've still only seen the Naruse films from the three English friendly boxsets, but need to correct that soon. Are there any other unreleased Naruse films besided Scattered Clouds on Hulu+? I can't seem to search their site (which, as a potentially interested customer, seems silly.)

I’ve recently undertaken a formal Japanese viewing project, since everything I’ve seen has been scattershot over the years. One of my first stops was to re-watch the Naruse Eclipse. Please forgive me for changing the subject, but I wanted to get some of my thoughts down.

I have to agree with the critical consensus that Apart from You is where Naruse really comes into his own. What bugs me about No Blood Relation, made just the year before, is the treatment of the character of the mother and how one-sidedly evil she’s portrayed through her kidnapping of the child and callous dismissals of the stepmothers attempts to see her child. The ending
SpoilerShow
where the mother gives her fortune to the child
seems tacked-on and doesn’t really seem to lend any nuance to the character. It's still a good film, but such two dimensional characterizations are exactly the opposite of why I love Naruse.

In Apart from You, though, the characterizations are complex and sympathetic. There are so many beautiful moments in the film. I think the essence of my appreciation for Naruse boils down to moments like when we see shots of Yoshio embarrassed by his tattered socks. At this point early in the film, he’s a largely unlikeable character, and yet Naruse gives us this glimpse of insight. Yes, he emotionally abuses his mother, but he’s a real person with feelings, too.

It reminds me of one of my favorite moments in literature. I haven’t read East of Eden in probably ten years, but I always remember the part where young Adam spies his emotionally distant step-mother alone and smiling as she is doing household chores. It’s these private, humanistic insights that excite me so much about Naruse’s films.

I wonder how accurately the title “Apart from You” is translated. It seems like the perfect match for this film, because it fits on multiple levels. At once, it refers to the emotional relationship between mother, Kikue, and son, Yoshio. Yoshio is resentful of his mother’s job as a Geisha and rebels by skipping school and spending his nights with a street gang.

Another meaning relates to the mental shift in perspective when a young Geisha, Terugiku, tries to help Yoshio appreciate everything his mother does for him. Terugiku allows Yoshio to witness her terrible family life and just how difficult life as a Geisha is. It’s this trip apart from his mother, this broadening of worldview, that enlightens Yoshio and completely changes his perspective on his mother, making him feel guilty about how he has been treating her.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, the title refers to the physical distance left between Yoshio and blossoming love interest Terugiku at the end of the film, as she must go away to earn enough money to support her family.

One last thing that struck while watching these wonderful films (and I hope this doesn’t sound too obtuse) was just how “American” everything looks about them. I’m aware of the huge influence Hollywood had on filmmakers like Ozu and Naruse, but certain aspects, such as the wardrobe, just seem more Western than I would have expected. I don’t really know anything about Japanese culture at this time (other than what I’ve seen in films), though, so I can’t figure out if the movies are an accurate reflection of the look of Japanese society or if certain aspects are stylized for film.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#542 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jul 09, 2014 12:13 pm

Terugiku is not merely "going away" -- she will essentially become a prostitute.

Not an expert on Japanese grammar by any means but I think "Kimi to wakarete" gives a sense that parting is not only going to happen but is necessary -- in essence, something like "I must part from you".

Men wearing western clothing was pretty common in urban Japan by the 30s, women wearing western clothing and hairstyles (moga) are over-represented in movies. There were some women's occupations which involved Western-type dress (theater ushers, for instance). Much more common than moga were the intermediate category between fully traditional and fully "modern" -- like the record shp sales girl in Dragnet Girl -- young women doing "modern" jobs (such as secretaries and cashiers and sales people) while wearing kimonos (with more relaxed hairstyles -- albeit not the up-to-date styles affected by moga, e.g. bobs).

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#543 Post by Jack Phillips » Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:00 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:Terugiku is not merely "going away" -- she will essentially become a prostitute.

Not an expert on Japanese grammar by any means but I think "Kimi to wakarete" gives a sense that parting is not only going to happen but is necessary -- in essence, something like "I must part from you".
I don't know much about Japanese grammar myself, but I have Japanese co-workers. I tried the phrase out on one and her suggestion was that a good English translation would be "Breaking up with you . . . " where the ellipsis withholds important (but perhaps understood) information. I guess the usual way the expression is used (non-te form) is to say things like "Breaking up with you has made me sad," or "Breaking up with you is the best thing that ever happened to me."

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#544 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jul 09, 2014 3:11 pm

It is the -te verb form that makes this tougher to decipher. ;-}

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#545 Post by Emak-Bakia » Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:25 pm

Thanks so much for the help, Michael and Jack!

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#546 Post by artfilmfan » Sun Jul 13, 2014 10:09 am

Watched Scattered Clouds yesterday and, once again, enjoyed it very much. What a visually intoxicating film! Many scenes reminded me of another excellent and equally beautiful-looking film made nearly thirty years later: Maborosi.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#547 Post by Jack Phillips » Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:38 pm

artfilmfan wrote:Watched Scattered Clouds yesterday and, once again, enjoyed it very much. What a visually intoxicating film! Many scenes reminded me of another excellent and equally beautiful-looking film made nearly thirty years later: Maborosi.
Interesting. I think it's Catherine Russell who writes that the film makes her think of In the Mood for Love.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#548 Post by artfilmfan » Sun Jul 13, 2014 5:19 pm

I can understand why. In the Mood for Love is also visually intoxicating. And both Scattered Clouds and In the Mood for Love feature very attractive cast ... wearing well-tailored clothes.

Talking about In the Mood for Love... watching the scene in which Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung are filmed from behind, walking side-by-side, always takes my breath away.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#549 Post by M_Penalosa » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:39 pm

Emak-Bakia wrote:I've still only seen the Naruse films from the three English friendly boxsets, but need to correct that soon. Are there any other unreleased Naruse films besided Scattered Clouds on Hulu+?
Hulu Naruse films:

Mother
Floating Clouds
Repast
Ginza Cosmetics
The Sound of the Mountain
Yearning
Wife
A Woman Ascends the Stairs
Late Chrysanthemums
Flowing
Silent Naruse Eclipse Set

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#550 Post by Emak-Bakia » Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:07 am

Thanks, Penalosa. I haven't seen four of those, so I will definitely be starting a trial soon.

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