After watching 4 films of the set - starting with Flunky Work Hard
and just finished Everynight's dream - its incredible to see Naruse really forming as a director. The ending of Flunky really stands out from the set once you reach Apart from you since:
Its the happiest ending you get and also from what I read from the liner notes I think the closest I've seen Naruse following the Shochiku formula of "laughter and tears"
Once you get to the next film No Blood Relations
you start to see more familiar Naruse though I do agree it did lack the subtlety as Yojimbo notes the zoom ins are great but at times I did find it overdone and the story was more sensationalized than I've seen from the Naruse films I've seen. Or rather perhaps because its far less shomin-geki (working class) since money and the necessity to work is important I find them less pronounced as I would in say comparison the next two films in the set. Yet, what I really loved about this film was the scenes with Kikue as you can never bring yourself to hate her, even when she's just there standing during certain events, the way Naruse manages to capture somehow the conflict that is just raging in her. She appears so cold and despondent on the outside but you know that she's completely unnerved and torn up on the inside yet she continues to put up such a strong front as like more familiar Naruse heroines she'll fight as long as she possibly can. Seeing Kikue in that film was the real treat for me as its a huge step forward to what you come to know about Naruse's heroines. The ending begins to become rather mixed as I find it to end on a far less pitiless note than the previous film, though still happy and positive in one sense.
Apart From You
I don't know what else to chime in as this becomes Knives I think put it nicely above in saying:
It's pure classic Naruse right down to the sleeping cat. The whole film feel like a prequel to Late Chrysanthemums which is only ever a good thing... I really don't have much to add, the movie's a rough edged stone and all the better for it.
The women here more different from the housewife we see in No Blood relations, who despite all their efforts may not have their love reciprocated and so they are more in the vein of Kikue in that it seems they're fighting a battle that they just aren't winning however they're far more resigned to their fate - of being Geisha's - than she was - of not being a mother. The ending of the film is a real knock out. Its surprising how much he managed to fit in only an hour, though I did find the mother's segment as a Geisha to be rather less developed but then again the way he focused on the type of work and environment that Geisha's are immersed in those few party scenes more than makes up for it.
Every Night's Dream
continues delve more into really familiar Naruse as here I see that women become more pronounced and the relative strength between them and the men in terms of tenacity and practicality. Omitsu might in my opinion be one of the be luckier women in Naruse's films, next to the housewife in No Blood Relation, in that her child definitely adores her. Though it would good to note as well that in both cases the child is relatively young and not at an age of rebellion. Still on the topic of child I did find the husband well to be equally if not more "childish" than Fumio. Seeing as he's the one we see playing with kids more often than not and that he's not so different from Fumio in that it's Omitsu putting the food on the table for them both. In addition he's the one constantly dreaming of a better lot for the family, unlike Omitsu who knows her place is willing to endure just as long as there will be food to place on the table. On another note:
Is it just me or do women in Naruse no matter how tough, though I've only seen the films released by BFI and MoC in addition to this with Wife Be Like a Rose, Lighting, and Yearning, never actually resort to illegal activities? I would argue even the woman in Floating Clouds technically was only a treasurer for her brother in laws scam though she did still his money it is still technically earned more by her brother than her and its not as if she really managed to use it. In fact they continue to discourage going down that path.
The scores on the films I find are good, not particularly over powering and it does capture the tone, though not outstanding still I find it definitely to be something I could watch the film with. One more film left but this film set is great! I hope many people pick up this set to encourage more releases of Naruse.
Oh and David Kehr
on the set.