(director: Mikio Naruse; screenwriters: Toshiro Ide/from the novel by Fumiko Hayashi; cinematographer: Masao Tamai; editor: Eiji Ooi; music: Ichirô Saitô; cast: Mieko Takamine (Mihoko Nakagawa), Ken Uehara (Toichi Nakagawa), Rentarô Mikuni (Tadashi Tanimura), Yatsuko Tanami (Fusako), Chieko Nakakita (Eiko Matsuyama), Hajime Izu (Hirohisa Matsuyama), Yoshimi Niemura (Michiyo Aratama), Setsuko Sakurai (Sanae Takasugi), Yoshiko Tsubouchi (Taeko Niemura); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sanezumi Fujimoto; Criterion Collection (Janus); 1953-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“Flawed but powerful Ozu-like dramedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Known as a women’s director and an introvert, Mikio Naruse(“Hit and Run“/”When a Woman Ascends the Stairs“/”Mother“) made shomin-geki films depicting the Japanese lower classes. Writer Toshiro Ide bases this flawed but powerful Ozu-like dramedy on the novel by the female author Fumiko Hayashi. The intelligent but bleak film was too tedious to cause excitement, even if it critically examined married life for its disappointments. It is shot in black and white.
Both Mihoko (Mieko Takamine) and Toichi Nakagawa (Ken Uehara) are locked into a loveless marriage after ten years. She’s troubled that he doesn’t make enough money to support her, treats her more like a servant than a wife and that she has to work to make ends meet. Meanwhile hubby is not attracted to his wife, thinks she’s a lousy cook and is turned off by her nagging.
Fusako (Yatsuko Tanami) is an ex-colleague’s widow with a small child, who seduces the vulnerable hubby to give her support. The wife discovers the affair and seeks advice from her sister, two of her friends, her parents, and from some of her not too helpful lodgers (Rentaro Mikuni).
Hubby thinks about leaving his wife, but doesn’t. She fights to get him back, but wonders if it’s worth it.
It stands out as a thoughtful film about relationships and how women are viewed by society as second-class citizens.
REVIEWED ON 6/25/2015 GRADE: B