THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (*****)

Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki (When a Woman Ascends the Stairs)
Japan, 1960, 111 minutes, b&w
Directed by Mikio Naruse
Cast: Hideko Takamine (Mama, aka Keiko Yashiro), Masayuki Mori (Nobuhiko Fujisaki), Reiko Dan (Junko Inchihashi), Tatsuya Nakadai (Kenichi Komatsu), Daisuke Katô (Matsukichi Sekine), Ganjiro Nakamura (Goda), Eitarô Ozawa (Minobe), Keiko Awaji (Yuri)

I love Naruse. He tells stories for AARP set. His films are about the folly of youth, the anxieties of aging and the wisdom that comes with maturity, like this story of "Mama," a proud and pure middle-aged bar hostess who refuses to take the easy route of sleeping with men to make her life more comfortable (and help the handouts she makes to her greedy mother and leech of a brother), only to be deceived by the man she thinks is her true love. Heartwrenching finale. In that way, it compares favorably with Fellini's Nights of Cabiria.

Mama You've Been On My Mind:
Tatsuya Nakadai pines for Hideo Takamine

A young Tatsuya Nakadai plays bar manager Kenichi Komatsu, who secretly is in love with Mama. The DVD has a special feature interview with Nakadai that is very interesting. He says Naruse favorite Hideo Takamine wasn't the friendliest actress to work with, but one that nonetheless taught him a great deal about acting and the business of making movies. Nakadai also reveals that Naruse had an unusual way of filming scenes. For example, he'd shoot a scene of Nakadai talking to Takamine in two separate takes, filming all of Nakadai's dialogue (including his reactions to an offscreen Takamine) in one take, then shoot a separate camera angle of all of Takamine's dialogue and reactions in another take. It's the equivalent of a band laying down its rhythm tracks in the studio and then adding in vocals and guitar overdubs later, rather than recording "live" in one take.

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