Mikio Naruse

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movielocke
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Re: Mikio Naruse

#601 Post by movielocke » Mon Nov 02, 2020 11:55 pm

artfilmfan wrote:If it is released on Blu ray, here’s hoping that they don’t “forget” to include English subtitles.
And if not, let’s at least let’s hope someone like mubi picks it up and commissions subtitles for it.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#602 Post by artfilmfan » Tue Nov 03, 2020 12:15 am

I think there was a VHS released by Sony in the U.S. that had subtitles. Also, this was shown during the Naruse retrospective more than 10 years ago. Therefore, subtitles are readily available. I have a (Hong Kong, I think) DVD of this but it has no English subtitles.

Yes, sadly, none of the Japanese DVDs of Naruse films has English subs. I still bought all of them, though.

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dadaistnun
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Re: Mikio Naruse

#603 Post by dadaistnun » Tue Nov 03, 2020 9:01 am

Stefan Andersson wrote:
Mon Nov 02, 2020 1:59 pm
Les Films Acacias to re-release "Mother" (Okaasan) in France, Nov. 2020:
http://www.acaciasfilms.com/film/la-mere/
Perhaps a Blu release will follow.
They also have listings for Yearning, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, Flowing, Scattered Clouds, and Sound of the Mountain. Those all appear to have a release date of September 9 and appear to be DCPs not prints (not surprising, I guess).

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#604 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Nov 03, 2020 1:59 pm

Those 5 were released in a French blu ray box set in November 2018

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#605 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Nov 03, 2020 2:56 pm

That subbed Sony VHS release of Mother was a very early one. By the time I discovered Naruse in 2000, it was already long out of print. It was a comparatively deluxe release for its time period in terms of packaging. I would have bought a copy if I could have found one.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#606 Post by artfilmfan » Tue Nov 03, 2020 4:04 pm

A used copy of the Sony VHS was still available from a seller on Amazon at the time I looked into it maybe 15 years ago. Since I no longer had a VHS player, I decided to buy the unsubbed HK DVD instead.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#607 Post by artfilmfan » Mon Jul 12, 2021 9:43 pm

Amazon JP lists three Mikio Naruse films that will be released on DVD next month: Late Chrysanthemums, A Lovelorn Geisha, and Untamed Woman. It is very likely that there are no English subtitles. I have not seen Lovelorn and Untamed; therefore, I might buy these someday (along with Sudden Rain, released last year, which I’ve seen but do not have on DVD). Also, Two in The Shadow is listed at CD Japan as being re-released on DVD next month with only Japanese subs. It is interesting that it will have Japanese subs. I don’t recall that the DVD that was in one of the Japanese box sets released years ago had them.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#608 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 12, 2021 10:21 pm

artfilmfan -- I've never heard the English title "Lovelorn Geisha" before. Apparently this is actually Yoru no nagare (Evening Stream) -- a film co-directed by Naruse and Yuzo Kawashima (they each did their own separate scenes). I once read a breakdown of what parts were done by each director, but (alas) I have no real memory of what those were at this point. I really enjoyed Arakure (Untamed) -- and I believe one can find a good translation of the source novel. Takamine gives a very lively performance. My recollection of Evening Stream is rather vague. I really enjoyed Sudden Rain too -- very episodic but entertaining episodes -- and good performances.

Two in the Shadow is another non-standard name -- really Midaregumo (Scattered Clouds). It was one of the films included in volume 2 of Toho's Naruse Masterworks set. As far as I can tell, glancing at the DVD cases, all the films in this set had Japanese-only subtitles.

Any hint that these are re-mastered?

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#609 Post by artfilmfan » Tue Jul 13, 2021 8:10 am

Michael,

These are released at a lower price; therefore, I do not think that they are remastered.

Scattered Clouds is one of my favorite Naruse films. I hope it is released with English subtitles someday.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#610 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jul 13, 2021 8:22 am

I'll have to track down the DVDs for the ones I don't have, regardless... ;-)

It is a shame that English-speaking nations seem to have little affinity for Naruse. His blend of (often hard to perceive) humor and clear-eyed emotion doesn't seem to register well.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#611 Post by Stefan Andersson » Wed Oct 20, 2021 12:58 pm

Update to discussion above of Nov. 03. 2020:

Les Films Acacias have added Late Chrysanthemums and Aki tachinu to their Naruse lineup:
https://www.acaciasfilms.com/film/derni ... santhemes/
https://www.acaciasfilms.com/film/a-lap ... -lautomne/
https://www.acaciasfilms.com/?s=naruse

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#612 Post by vsski » Sat Nov 20, 2021 10:38 pm

Michael, sorry I don’t know how to quote your last statement from the other thread here, but why is there this constant comparison of the Japanese directors against each other. Did Naruse try to make Ozu films like Ozu? I never thought so and always felt his films both in subject and tone were different - then again, I have seen far more Ozu movies than Naruse films (largely because so few are available in English friendly editions), so may have a big blind spot.

To me comparing Naruse with Ozu and both with Mizoguchi and/or Kurosawa makes little sense. All had their own sensibilities and focus, and if anything Naruse and Mizoguchi have more in common thematically for me, as both focused more on women fighting against disadvantages they have due to a strong male dominated society they are born into.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#613 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Nov 21, 2021 12:07 am

I would say that Ozu and Naruse (and Shimizu and Gosho and a few others) were working in roughly the same cinematic territory, dealing with similar topics and often using the same group of performers (especially in their early years). Mizoguchi was part of an entirely different part of the Japanese movie world -- as was Kurosawa later (mostly) -- even though he worked for the same studio as Naruse at that point.

Making movies about everyday people living everyday lives was a major part of the movie industry (and the part most aimed at female audiences). Because Ozu is by far the most visible part of this branch of Japanese cinema -- he tends to be the measuring stick used for all of his contemporaries. This was certainly true for me. The first few films I watched, I saw through the filter of Ozu-ism (by which I was totally possessed). My reaction was -- this is okay -- but its not as good as Ozu. It was not until my 5th (Sound of the Mountain) and 6th (Repast, only available with French subs back then) films, seen fairly close together that I began to get a notion of what made Naruse unique (and caused me to fall in love with his films too).

While thematically Naruse and Mizoguchi seem similar, I'd say most of the similarities are rather superficial. Naruse early on began to present stories about women that to a large degree presented a woman's viewpoint. Mizoguchi treated his heroines much like Puccini (routinely) and Verdi (sometimes) did in his operas -- as objects for male fascination and romantic pity (Story of the Last Chrysanthemum has some pretty clear evocations of La Traviata). Naruse wasn't operatic in the slightest. His heroines were mostly "fighters" in a way that Mizoguchi's rarely were.

As far as can be determined, Ozu was one of Naruse's biggest supporters and admirers. I doubt they could be viewed as "friends" (did Naruse have any genuinely close friends, possibly not), they respected each others' work. Ozu supported Naruse while he was at Shochiku (and was not treated all that well) and supported his move to the new competing studio that would later be known as Toho. I don't know that Naruse tried to make "Ozu movies" -- rather he was expected to make movies in the Shochiku style (of which Ozu was the most critically celebrated -- but not most commercially successful -- practitioner). I think Naruse saw his task as making films that could compete with Ozu without trying to copy his style. But I would say both exhibited a sort of cinematic objectivity that was very far from film makers like Mizoguchi. It is probably easiest to see kinship between Ozu and Naruse in their earlier films. But even in the 50s their work remained connected -- and the impact ran both ways. Ozu was totally impressed (and disconcerted) by Floating Clouds, and this reaction had an impact on Early Spring and Tokyo Twilight. Only after Ozu needed to reboot (after Tokyo Twilight) do their late styles begin to diverge quite a bit.

One thing that sets Naruse aside from Ozu (and almost all his colleagues) is his treatment of light and darkness (at least after he left Shochiku). Some of his work probably did affect his Toho colleague Kurosawa. Most strikingly, the dance in the forest grove scene in Song Lantern would have been something Kurosawa admired/envied (and Kurosawa specifically praised this aspect of Naruse's work).

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#614 Post by vsski » Sun Nov 21, 2021 2:36 am

Thanks for making me think of the greater context, as I realize I have been looking at the comparison too narrowly. When I think of Ozu I always think of the family unit first and the dynamics within that unit often between a parent and a child, while for me Naruse was always the woman’s viewpoint first and foremost and I never saw him making a movie about family.
However, as you describe it in the historical context of course both were directors of movies about everyday life and families at large.

And yes in that sense Mizoguchi doesn’t fit in as his scenarios are different and more melodramatic. I remember we talked about this before and I fully agree with the parallels to Italian opera, Story of the last Chrysanthemum strongly reminded me of that even the first time I saw it.

In parts my viewpoint was also formulated by how I arrived at both directors, which was very different. I first came to Japanese cinema through Kurosawa as he was the easiest accessible to me and at that time only heard about Ozu and Mizoguchi - no word about Naruse. Especially when I heard Wim Wenders talk so much about Ozu, and then had moved to the US I decided to check out what I could find about him, which of course was through Criterion. And looking at his movies because of everything I had heard and read, I focused initially a lot on techniques, the low camera angles, the positioning of actors within the frame, the advancement of time through intercuts and fade outs etc. And to be honest my first reaction was that I felt the movies were too slow moving for my taste and I couldn’t relate to the inherent drama created by Japanese cultural and societal norms (I knew very little about Japanese culture back then). Of course lots has changed since, through repeat viewing of the movies - today I hardly see the technique anymore - through reading not just about movies but Japan and now of course for many years actually living in Japan.
I greatly admire Ozu today and get something new out of every repeat viewing.

Naruse was a completely different experience. I had not read anything about him, barely heard the name and purely by coincidence came across one of his movies. Maybe because by then I knew a lot more about Japan and Japanese culture and maybe I also had seen many more movies in general, but I will never forget my first experience with Naruse, as it was purely emotional and it knocked me over. I never looked at film technique but got completely absorbed by the story. The theme of a woman trying to break free from her assigned role, from wanting her own life and happiness and yet norms and environment making it impossible thus ending in desperation and despair, hugely resonated with me (likely because I saw a real life case first hand, the experience was enhanced). And I can only think of one director that has been able to repeat this experience for me.

The only non Naruse film that had a similar effect on me was Claude Sautet’s “Un Coeur d’Hiver”, although there it’s the Daniel Auteuil role that had this effect on me. And I’m not suggesting any other parallels between these directors.

And to this day I feel more emotional watching a Naruse movie than I do an Ozu one, maybe because of technique, as I feel Ozu does manage to create more of an emotional boundary to his characters through it.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#615 Post by artfilmfan » Sun Nov 21, 2021 11:20 am

vsski- some (probably 15) years ago I mentioned on this forum that I thought “Un Coeur en Hiver” was the best French movie made in the “last 25 years” (up to that point). At that time, I had not yet seen Maurice Pialat’s “We Won’t Grow Old Together”. Now, I think of these two films as being equals. I first saw the Sautet film on VHS that looked hazy. Yet, the quality of the film came through and I was very impressed by it.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#616 Post by Jack Phillips » Sun Nov 21, 2021 4:05 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Sun Nov 21, 2021 12:07 am
While thematically Naruse and Mizoguchi seem similar, I'd say most of the similarities are rather superficial. Naruse early on began to present stories about women that to a large degree presented a woman's viewpoint. Mizoguchi treated his heroines much like Puccini (routinely) and Verdi (sometimes) did in his operas -- as objects for male fascination and romantic pity (Story of the Last Chrysanthemum has some pretty clear evocations of La Traviata). Naruse wasn't operatic in the slightest. His heroines were mostly "fighters" in a way that Mizoguchi's rarely were.
This is a really great comment (but of course, it's from Kerpan). It reminds me why I think The Life of Oharu is M's most successful film. Oharu starts out with quite a bit of fight in her, and gradually, over the course of her life, that fight gets kicked out of her. But she is not simply a victim. By the end she achieves the apotheosis of resignation, maybe even satori. Nothing could be further from Naruse's approach--his heroines keep fighting until they either triumph or break themselves on the wheel.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#617 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Nov 21, 2021 6:32 pm

I wonder if Mizoguchi's nearly-invisible Aienkyo (Straits of Love and Hate) might not be rather like Naruse in some ways. It followed two other films that Mizoguchi made provoked by Naruse's huge success with Apart from You and Every-night Dreams. (Mizoguchi felt a lot of contempt for Naruse -- very different from his attitude to Ozu). I have only seen this unsubbed (and never in any sort of really decent quality -- even on the Japanese DVD I bought long ago). I hope that some day I will get to see a subbed copy that looks passably decent.

In any event, insofar as I could follow this, it seemed rather atypical for Mizoguchi, edging close to Naruse territory by the end.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#618 Post by vsski » Sun Nov 21, 2021 7:56 pm

That’s a Mizoguchi film I have not been able to get a hold of, unfortunately, although with my travel these past years I haven’t tried very hard either, so now I’m even more curious.
But I’m afraid I’m veered this thread off track, as Michael, you started this off on the other thread by asking “why did Naruse make mediocre Ozu films” and I’m curious to hear your answer (when you get the time, no rush).

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#619 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Nov 21, 2021 8:33 pm

It was a joke question (making fun of myself). And a riff on something Mark Twain did long ago He was on the first package cruise/tour to Europe for non-elite travelers. Passengers, in rotation, got to dine at the Captain's table. When it was his turn, he really enjoyed the excellent coffee that was served there -- and chastized the Captain for the fact that passengers were served markedly inferior coffee. So, he and the Captain checked this out -- and the Captain, after a few sips, said (something like) -- ""You're absolutely right. This is terrible coffee... But it's pretty tolerable tea".

So, in the throes of my Ozu fanaticism in 2000-2001, I made the mistake of judging Naruse's films as not very good Ozu films instead of approaching them as what they actually were -- namely, (much better than) "pretty tolerable" Naruse films.

Actually we really can't judge whether Naruse's earliest films might have been derivative of Ozu's or Shimizu's (or any other more senior Shochiku directors) because all but one is lost. His one early (short-ish) surviving comedy (Flunky Work Hard) does some things that are reminiscent of early Ozu comedies and other things that are definitely not Ozu-ish at all. By the time of his next surviving film (No Blood Relation), he is definitely looking pretty Naruse-ish (albeit not with the refinement we'd see just a year later). (Of course most of Ozu's and Shimizu's earliest work is also lost -- so we are doubly unable to analyze the extent of influences on Naruse). When Naruse tried to use distinctive stylistic "tricks" (different ones from Ozu's, of course), his boss at Shochiku berated him, telling him something like "One Ozu is more than enough for us". I suspect Naruse desperately wanted to jump in to sound films as early as possible because this would give him an avenue for clearly distinguishing his work from Ozu's.

Basically by 1933, both Ozu and Naruse were pretty much masters of their craft, and all evidence suggests they paid careful attention to what each other was doing. But by that point, they would not have been imitating each other -- but viewing each other's work as a challenge to make their own work better.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#620 Post by vsski » Sun Nov 21, 2021 8:35 pm

artfilmfan wrote:
Sun Nov 21, 2021 11:20 am
vsski- some (probably 15) years ago I mentioned on this forum that I thought “Un Coeur en Hiver” was the best French movie made in the “last 25 years” (up to that point). At that time, I had not yet seen Maurice Pialat’s “We Won’t Grow Old Together”. Now, I think of these two films as being equals. I first saw the Sautet film on VHS that looked hazy. Yet, the quality of the film came through and I was very impressed by it.
Now you’ve got me stomped - I know I have seen the Pialat movie (admittedly a long time ago), but I honestly remember little about it. Of course I will have to check it out now.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#621 Post by vsski » Sun Nov 21, 2021 10:28 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Sun Nov 21, 2021 8:33 pm
So, he and the Captain checked this out -- and the Captain, after a few sips, said (something like) -- ""You're absolutely right. This is terrible coffee... But it's pretty tolerable tea".
That's a Twain anecdote I haven't heard before and it made me laugh :D
Michael Kerpan wrote:
Sun Nov 21, 2021 8:33 pm
So, in the throes of my Ozu fanaticism in 2000-2001, I made the mistake of judging Naruse's films as not very good Ozu films instead of approaching them as what they actually were -- namely, (much better than) "pretty tolerable" Naruse films.

Actually we really can't judge whether Naruse's earliest films might have been derivative of Ozu's or Shimizu's (or any other more senior Shochiku directors) because all but one is lost. His one early (short-ish) surviving comedy (Flunky Work Hard) does some things that are reminiscent of early Ozu comedies and other things that are definitely not Ozu-ish at all. By the time of his next surviving film (No Blood Relation), he is definitely looking pretty Naruse-ish (albeit not with the refinement we'd see just a year later). (Of course most of Ozu's and Shimizu's earliest work is also lost -- so we are doubly unable to analyze the extent of influences on Naruse). When Naruse tried to use distinctive stylistic "tricks" (different ones from Ozu's, of course), his boss at Shochiku berated him, telling him something like "One Ozu is more than enough for us". I suspect Naruse desperately wanted to jump in to sound films as early as possible because this would give him an avenue for clearly distinguishing his work from Ozu's.

Basically by 1933, both Ozu and Naruse were pretty much masters of their craft, and all evidence suggests they paid careful attention to what each other was doing. But by that point, they would not have been imitating each other -- but viewing each other's work as a challenge to make their own work better.
This brings up a very interesting bit of film history, which is the rivalry / competition between the various studios and their key directors over the years in Japan. So much has been written about it (and I suspect more in Japanese than English, but unfortunately I still can't read Kanji) and I often think this in and of itself would make a good movie.
Mizoguchi in particular seems to have been jealous of everyone, thinking of his reaction when he "only" received the Silver Lion in Venice. Then again these guys knew each other quite well and many had worked with each other in one form or another. If memory serves me well, Kurosawa was an assistant to Naruse at one point as well and from what I read did admire him.

It's a real shame that so many of the silent movies are lost, as it would have been great to see how they developed their craft over time. When I saw the first Ozu silents, I was really reminded more of Western style movies than what would become his trademark later on, but it's fascinating to see how that change slowly starts creeping in. With Naruse we have even less left and his first silent certainly seems more in the early Ozu vein, as you say.

I often wonder why Naruse is so little discussed in the West. My assumption has always been that his movies are too much rooted in Japanese culture and the interior struggles of their characters far less understandable to Western audiences, if they don't know Japanese conventions and its education system. While Ozu of course also works with these conventions, his movies are more about the family dynamics and conflicts within, and I think Westerners can associate more with that, as these problems exist at least in similar ways in Western families too, whether it's problems with ageing parents, rivaling siblings or mischievous youngsters.

But I'd be interested to hear your take on this.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#622 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Nov 21, 2021 10:57 pm

I think Naruse's tone is much harder to grasp than other directors of his era. Most people miss his often rather sly humor (which is often pretty bleak and dark humor, but not always). But I think all us Naruse fans puzzle over why, despite critical praise during the rare retrospectives, his overall popularity (even among fans of classic Japanese movies) never seems to increase.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#623 Post by vsski » Sun Nov 21, 2021 11:41 pm

It's a real shame, but I haven't given up hope yet, that Criterion will still publish some Naruse films, after all they published an Eclipse set of his silents, and I highly doubt that this made their top ten best selling list.
But other than the French set of BDs, which from tenia's comments is old masters - but hey, should still be better than some of the DVDs out there - I'm not aware of any BD releases anywhere else not even in Japan (and haven't heard of any announcements either or anyone working on them).

If at least someone would take the two old Japanese masterworks boxes and upgrade those, I'd buy them in a heartbeat.

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#624 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Nov 22, 2021 12:04 am

I probably have seen more Naruse films unsubbed than subbed -- but at least I managed to see everything that has ever been made available (everything that survives except for 2 fragmentary war-time films).

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Re: Mikio Naruse

#625 Post by vsski » Mon Nov 22, 2021 12:20 am

Japanese is such a nuanced language prone to interpretation that I always feel I miss so much even if I understand enough to follow the main plot line. But yes, better than nothing of course.

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