Mikio Naruse - Rotten Tomatoes

Mikio Naruse



Mikio Naruse is one of the least known of Japan's early master directors, both in the West and in Japan, yet he created some of the most moving, darkly beautiful works in Japanese cinema. Like Kenji Mizoguchi, Naruse showed an uncanny understanding for the psychology of women. Like Yasujiro Ozu, he preferred subtle shifts of character over broad strokes of plot. Unlike either of these early greats, however, Naruse's vision of humanity was much darker and more clinical. He stripped all vestiges of hope or acceptance from his films, what remains is only a willful struggle to endure. His relentlessly negative view of human existence has resulted in Naruse's often being labeled a nihilist.

Born in Tokyo, in 1905, Naruse was the youngest of three sons of a desperately poor embroiderer. Although he excelled in elementary school, his family could not afford to further his education. He was instead enrolled in a two-year technical school. There, he spent virtually all of his free time reading borrowed books from the library. Soon after he graduated in 1920, his father died. At age 15, Naruse had no choice but to work. He found employment at the newly founded Shochiku company as a prop man. During this same time, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu rose, within three years, from lowly apprentices to directors. Excessively modest and painfully shy, Naruse rose through the studio's ranks more slowly. After eight years as an assistant director to Heinosuke Gosho and Yoshinobu Ikeda, he got the chance to direct an uncharacteristic slapstick comedy called Chambara Fufu.

Naruse reached his creative peak in the early '50s, working primarily, like Ozu, in the genre of domestic drama or shomen-geki. His films are populated with proud, willful women who find themselves searching for dignity in desperate circumstances, only to find false promises and continuing degradation. Unlike typical Ozu heroines who are both trusting and innocent, Naruse's characters are stubborn, experienced, and self-aware. They are women who knowingly enter doomed relationships, as in Ukigumo; barmaids who struggle to support their children, as in Ginza Gensho; or aged geishas who try to resist a decline into prostitution, as in Nagareru. Yet they continue to struggle and endure in spite of their bleak prospects. While Ozu punctuates his films with long static shots that invoke a sense of transcendence, Naruse shoots his actors close-up in confined spaces. His claustrophobic aesthetic seems to deny the possibility, not just of transcendence, but even of communication or happiness. Such Naruse masterpieces as Meshi, Mother, Late Chrysanthemums, and Ukigumo rely on subtle changes of expression to create brilliantly nuanced studies of these remarkable and desperate women.

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet Midaregumo (Scattered Clouds) (Two in the Shadow)
  • Director
1967
No Score Yet Hikinige (Hit and Run) (Moment of Terror)
  • Director
1966
No Score Yet Onna no naka ni iru tanin (The Stranger Within a Woman)
  • Director
1966
No Score Yet Midareru
  • Director
  • Producer
1964
No Score Yet Onna no rekishi (A Woman's Life)
  • Director
1963
100% Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki (When a Woman Ascends the Stairs)
  • Director
1963
No Score Yet Hourou-ki (A Wanderer's Notebook) (Lonely Lane)
  • Director
  • Producer
1962
No Score Yet Onna no za (A Woman's Place)
  • Director
1962
No Score Yet Tsuma to shite onna to shite
  • Director
1961
No Score Yet Yoru no nagare (Evening Stream)
  • Director
1960
No Score Yet Musume Tsuma Haha
  • Director
1960
No Score Yet Aki tachinu (Approach of Autumn)
  • Director
1960
No Score Yet Kotan no kuchibue (Whistling in Kotan)
  • Director
1959
No Score Yet Iwashigumo (Summer Clouds)
  • Director
1958
No Score Yet Anzukko (Little Peach)
  • Director
1958
No Score Yet Arakure (Untamed Woman)
  • Director
1957
No Score Yet Nagareru (Flowing)
  • Director
1956
No Score Yet Tsuma No Kokoro
  • Director
1956
No Score Yet Shu-u (Sudden Rain)
  • Director
1956
No Score Yet Ukigumo (Floating Clouds)
  • Director
1955
No Score Yet Bangiku (Late Chrysanthemums)
  • Director
1954
No Score Yet Yama no oto (Sound of the Mountain)
  • Director
1954
No Score Yet Tsuma (Wife)
  • Director
1953
No Score Yet Fûfu (Husband and Wife)
  • Director
1953
No Score Yet Ani imôto (Older Brother, Younger Sister)
  • Director
1953
No Score Yet Okaasan (Mother)
  • Director
1952
No Score Yet Lightning (Inazuma)
  • Director
1952
No Score Yet Ginza Cosmetics (Ginza Gesho)
  • Director
1951
No Score Yet Meshi (Repast)
  • Director
1951
No Score Yet Tale of Archery at the Sanjusangendo (Sanjûsangen-dô, tôshiya monogatari)
  • Director
1945
No Score Yet Uta-andon (The Song Lantern)
  • Director
1943
No Score Yet Hideko no shashô-san (Hideko the Bus Conductress)
  • Director
1941
No Score Yet Tabi yakusha (Travelling Actors)
  • Director
1940
No Score Yet The Whole Family Works (Hataraku Ikka)
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1939
No Score Yet Tsuruhachi Tsurujiro (Tsuruhachi and Tsurujiro)
  • Director
1938
No Score Yet Ashita no namikimichi (Morning's Tree-Lined Street)
  • Director
1936
No Score Yet Sakasu gonin-gumi (Five Men in the Circus)
  • Director
1935
No Score Yet Tsuma yo bara no yo ni (Wife! Be Like a Rose!)
  • Director
  • Screenwriter
1935
No Score Yet Otome-gokoro - Sannin-shimai (Three Sisters with Maiden Hearts)
  • Director
1935
No Score Yet Kagirinaki hodo (Street without End)
  • Director
1934
No Score Yet After Our Separation (Kimi To Wakarete)
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1933
No Score Yet Kimi to wakarete (Apart from You)
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1933
No Score Yet Yogoto no yume (Every Night Dreams)
  • Director
1933
No Score Yet Nasanu naka (The Stepchild)
  • Director
1932
No Score Yet Koshiben gambare (Flunky, Work Hard!)
  • Screenwriter
  • Director
1931

Quotes from Mikio Naruse's Characters

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