Naruse Mikio The World without Hope and Pity


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Naruse Mikio


Life and Career

  • Naruse Mikio (1907-1969)

  • Born in Tokyo and his father was a craftsman. Poverty prevented him from attending higher schools and on leaving primary school, he entered a vocational training school. He was a quiet, shy and dreamy boy and more interested in literature than craftsmanship.



Life and Career

  • On his father’s premature death, he had to find a job. Entered Shochiku Kamata Studios as a prop boy.

  • He was an assistant to various film directors for ten years before he was allowed to direct his own film in 1930. A lot longer than his contemporaries, Ozu, Mizoguchi, Gosho, and Kinugasa.

  • Due to his self-consciousness, quiet ness and shyness



Life and Career

  • Naruse made 89 films in his career with Chanbara Fufu (Mr and Mrs Swordplay), his first film and Scattered Clouds (1967) his last.

  • He mainly produced shomin geki (comic dramas about common people) and melodrama, which centre on female rather than male characters.



Life and Career

  • Koshiben, Ganbare (Flunky, Work Hard, 1931) his earliest surviving film

  • Kimi to Wakarete (Apart from You,1933) and Yogoto no Yume (Nightly Dreams, 1933) included in the 10 best films of the year. The producer liked them too, but he could not get the proper recognition of his studio boss. His move to PCL (Toho).



Major Films

  • Wife, Be Like a Rose (1935) - A daughter whose marriage looms tries to reunite her estranged parents; her father is living with his geisha mistress and her mother is intelligent but cannot show proper consideration for her husband.



Major Works

  • The Whole Family Works (, 1939) - the Ishimura family’s - parents and nine children - combined income is mere 111 yen and allowed the only most talented to go to electrician’s school. Individuals crushed by family? Individuals sacrifice themselves for his family?



Films in the 50s

  • Repast (1951) - a childless couple who seem to be bored with each other and life in general. The husband’s runaway niece suddenly turns up and he takes her to all those places to which he never took his wife. The wife returns to her parents in Tokyo leaving behind her husband on his own in Osaka.



Films in the 50s

  • Lighting (1952) - a mother has four children, whose fathers are all different. Three endlessly squabbling half-siblings are observed from the point of view of the youngest bus conductor daughter - egoist eldest sister, indecisive second daughter and useless brother.



Films in the 50s

  • Older Brother, Younger Sister (1953) - Older brother is a talented mason and tattooed gambler who stops working when he has enough money. His younger sister returns from a city being pregnant by a university student.



Films in the 50s

  • Wife (1953) - a childless couple: wife oversleeps, avoids housework and even leaves hair in bento, while husband has a secret affair with a widowed secretary. When she finds it out, the couple has an enormous row and wife becomes even more unsympathetic and husband is further attracted by his mistress. Wife goes to confront her husband’s lover …



Films in the 50s

  • Late Chrysanthemum (1954) - a character study on the lives of four retired geisha. One of them leads a single life as a money lender and investor, two single mothers with an unsympathetic child of each do menial work to make their ends meet and the married one is running a bar with her husband and hoping to be a mother one day.



Films in the 50s

  • The money lender is ruthless even to her former colleagues in collecting debts. However, she is far from a heartless, calculating woman. When she receives a letter from her old client whom she loves, she acts like a school girl.



Films in the 50s

  • Sound of the Mountain (1954) - based on the story of Kawabata Yasunari, this is about a woman who is trapped in a loveless marriage and finds only solace in the warm understanding of her father in law.



Films in the 50s

  • Floating Clouds (1955) - a married forestry surveyor and a typist fall in love in war-time Indochina. After the war she decides to go and see him but he has no intention to break up his loveless marriage. He instead initiate a series of serious flirtation

  • with various young

  • girls, while she

  • never gives up on

  • him.



Films in the 50s

  • Flowing (1956) -

  • A geisha house owned by

  • a former star geisha

  • is failing. She has a

  • single mother niece who has

  • no intention to work and a daughter who hates her mother’s business.

  • After great hesitation, she decides to have some financial and emotional support from her former patron and the father of her daughter. But she is given 100,000 yen as consolation money. Only intelligent and loyal maidservant knows that the geisha house will be forced to close down soon.



Later Works

  • When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) - a young widow (just turned thirty) is working as a head hostess in a exclusive Ginza night club. She tries to be high-minded while dreaming of opening up her own bar. However, times are changing in Ginza, too, and how much longer she can hold out defending traditional, honest trade.



Later Works

  • ‘Around midnight, Tokyo’s 16,000 bar women go home. The best women go home by car. Second-rate ones by streetcar. The worst go home with their customers.‘

  • ‘After it gets dark, I have to climb the stairs and that is what I hate. But once I am up, I can take whatever happens.’

  • When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is a portrait of female dignity and perseverance.



Auteuristic Themes and Style

  • ‘Two great directors spent their lives examining the heart of the common people and capturing the love they felt for them; Naruse Mikio and Ozu Yasujiro

  • - Takamine Hideko who appeared in most of Naruse’s later works.



Auteuristic Themes and Style

  • - What Naruse’s films are about and how they are made -

  • Most of Naruse’s works belong to the genres of shomin-geki (humourous dramas about common people) and melodrama

  • Naruse’s melodrama deals with  marriage in trouble or  single women who are struggling to earn a living or to keep self-respect.

  • Naruse’s films depict these issues in utterly realistic manners.



Auteuristic Themes and Style

  • Characters

  • Never one-dimensional - every character in Naruse’s films are fallible and sinful, but never evil. None of his characters are free from worldly desires - desire for money, sex, alcohol, gamble, etc. Typical of such characters are geisha and bar hostesses.

  • Naruse neither romanticizes nor ennobles them, but depicts with sympathy and pity.



Auteuristic Themes and Style

  • ‘His characters lack the hope and good humour of Ozu's in the face of disappointment, and, unlike Mizoguchi's protagonists, they are usually denied the luxury of death.’

  • Alexander Jacoby, ‘Naruse Mikio’

  • Naruse’s characters live in limbo - the world of eternal suffering.

  • They deserve salvation and atonement.

  • Buddhist ideology behind his films



Auteuristic Themes and Style

  • Naruse’s films are totally ‘democratic’ in terms of placing his cinematic characters and the spectators of his works on the exactly equal level. No characters are larger than life. They are intelligent as the audience are; they are as ignorant as they are; they are as imperfect as they are.

  • Naruse is only interested in making appear those who are weak and unwise but not evil.



Auteuristic Themes and Style

  • Some visual experimentations in early works

  • Post-war films adopted naturalistic style

  • In Ozu’s films everything is carefully arranged and meticulously calculated in mise-en-scène - stylized. Naruse’s mise-en-scène is casual and naturalistic.

  • Certain similarities to that of Ozu - set design and frontal composition

  • Occasional dramatic lighting, pans and travelling shots



Auteuristic Themes and Style



Auteuristic Themes and Style

  • ‘ … [Naruse’s method] consists of staging one very brief shot after another; but when we look at them placed end-to-end in the finished film, they give the impression of one long single take. The fluidity is so perfect that the cuts are invisible … A flow of shots that looks calm and ordinary at first glance reveals itself to be like a deep river with a quiet surface disguising a fast-raging current.

  • - Kurosawa Akira



Auteuristic Themes and Style

  • Frequent use of fade when the lapse of time is inplied.

  • Occasional breach of 180-degree rule




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