Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
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Yojimbo
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#51 Post by Yojimbo » Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:30 am

knives wrote:I had a different reaction to No Blood Relation than you did. It might actually be my favorite Naruse yet. It manages the domestic epic Naruse excels at so well that it's stunning. Whatever contrivances there may be in the plot work for me since they make the story. I suppose it's an odd way to excuse coincidence, but it makes the story so it works for me. The relationships sell those aspects so well that I don't care.
Did you think the story fairly zipped along, though, knives?
I thought an extra 12-15 minutes might have suited the story.
I also thought he used quite a lot of 'zoom to close-up' shots, especially to concentrate on the birth mother's reaction to her daughters antipathy to her.
And did you think the humourous scenes with the punk were out of place?
Michael Kerpan wrote:and one will have to get used to his peculiar rapid pseudo-zooming in an out (actually done by dollying), a stylistic quirk that aggravated his studio boss at Shochiku -- and which he carried over into some of his earliest films at Toho.
Judging by his use of it in 'No Blood Relations', I can certainly understand why, Michael; he employed quite a few wonderful stylistic devices in this film, but this certainly wasn't one of them.
It lacked subtlety, I thought.
But those two scenes I cited were the works of a master, though

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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#52 Post by knives » Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:47 am

To be honest, and this goes with my epic comment, I thought the film felt like five hours. The whole experience for me was in real time so while I wouldn't have minded even more story I got enough to whet my appetite.
As for the experimental flourishes, the ramicams were only one of the many things that Naruse used in excess, I liked them and feel that they built a very specific set of indicators for the story, like the narrator of a book. It reminds me heavily of the weird sort of things that Suzuki uses to make his stories. I loved it here like I love it in his movies.

As for the comic relief, I enjoyed it even if it didn't add anything to the core story. Actually now that I think of it that subplot while in tone may be slightly out of place, still manages to add to the whole film. It gives a second sort of story about how blood isn't always thicker than water. The film I suppose could survive without it, but would be less dense as a result. I think it's necessary to have the comic relief story to make it feel like a whole universe.

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Yojimbo
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#53 Post by Yojimbo » Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:54 am

knives wrote:To be honest, and this goes with my epic comment, I thought the film felt like five hours. .
Thats because he managed to fit in an astonishing amount into that 79 minutes; his camera was hyper-active.
For the most part it was marvellous but after a while those zooms lost their effectiveness through over-use.

I'll probably watch the next two tomorrow; Michael and I have tended to agree a lot on Naruse, Ozu, Mizoguchi and Barnet, especially, although not so much on Kurosawa, but if 'Apart From You' is only half as good as he's suggesting it will be worth the wait

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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#54 Post by knives » Fri Mar 25, 2011 1:21 am

Like I've been saying, domestic epic. The man is such an amazingly thrifty yet full story teller that it's unlike anything else I've ever seen. I realize you don't, but I actually love the living hell out of those damned zooms. I'll definitely watch Apart From You tomorrow, but I'm taking my time and savoring each film as fully as I can.

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manicsounds
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#55 Post by manicsounds » Fri Mar 25, 2011 3:35 am

HTF review

oops, didn't see that it was posted before.

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Yojimbo
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#56 Post by Yojimbo » Fri Mar 25, 2011 8:48 pm

I was distracted once or twice during my viewing of 'Apart From You', but although I'll give it another, more concentrated, rewatch, I'm quite certain it won't top 'Every Night Dreams', which despite its relatively brief running time deserves to be ranked in the same league as his later Masterpieces.
In its latter stages it perhaps becomes overly melodramatic, but thats more than compensated for by its hard-hitting downbeat ending.
Some of the dialogue, particularly by its heroine, the geisha bar-girl mother of a young son, is unusually frank and unsentimental and I think she must be ranked among the great indomitable survivors of Japanese cinema.

The scenes in the dockside dive reminded me of 'Docks of New York'; similarly frequented by denizens of the underworld, and their women; there was also a touch of 'Le Quai Des Brumes'.

The external scenes of the John Carradine-lookalike father and his son were ravishingly photographed: they served to remind me, in many respects, of 'Bicycle Thieves', and, indeed, there was something of the neo-realism of these external scenes
(theres something of a recurring motif in these silent Naruses of scenes of fathers outdoors playing with their young sons, and of the accident which, initially at least, serves to unite the family)
The few zooms that are employed are far less intrusive and exaggerated than in the earlier 'No Blood Relations'; the various stylistic devices blend beautifully with the rhythms and cadences of the plot, which, at times recall the deftness of Rene Clair, at his peak)

I think you will have got the message, by now: I loved it!

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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#57 Post by knives » Sat Mar 26, 2011 12:49 am

I haven't gotten to the second one yet, but Apart From You is really great and worth that second viewing. 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 do love that the first ramicam in the film was in reverse. That should definitely make you smile. I really don't have much to add, the movie's a rough edged stone and all the better for it.

hangman
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#58 Post by hangman » Sat Mar 26, 2011 1:31 am

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:
SpoilerShow
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:
SpoilerShow
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.

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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#59 Post by knives » Sun Mar 27, 2011 2:03 pm

Street Without End is easily the weakest of the boxset. With more than a few whiffs of Mizoguchi it is entirely understandable why Naruse would feel apprehensive to the material. He's not someone who I saw working well with saints, but through sheer will of directorial force and a great eye for the peripheral he lifts the film to being at least a very compelling story with a largely rich supporting cast.
He does manage to make the plight of his protagonist compelling, but the character herself isn't really all that interesting as the script makes it too self conscious that this is a woman in a woman's situation. So like I said it goes down to Mizoguchi levels, but Naruse manages to make it the best Mizoguchi film ever.

sjostrom
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#60 Post by sjostrom » Sun Apr 03, 2011 2:12 am

Are these zone free?

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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#61 Post by knives » Sun Apr 03, 2011 2:17 am

None of the recent Criterions are. They're R1.

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manicsounds
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#62 Post by manicsounds » Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:43 pm


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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#63 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:01 pm

Just a reminder on lovely Sumiko Mizukubo -- her life story was (supposedly) sadder and more melodramatic than that of any Naruse heroine. Her family pressured her to break her contract with Shochiku (where she got to work with Japan's greatest directors) and sign a more lucrative deal with another studio (Nikkatsu, I think) -- where she got stuck in a string of stinkers. She tried to commit suicide -- and her movie career ended prematurely. She married a rich businessman -- whose work was centered in Indonesia. This marriage did not go well -- and she was last seen singing in dives in places like Shanghai. (None of this is guaranteed -- but it is what I was told by an academic with expertise in this area of Japanese cinema).

Sumiko Kurishima, on the other hand, had a happier future. Japan's first real "star actress" had a classical artistic training -- and ended her career around the beginning of the sound era (in Japan), though she made a few return visits for some of her favorite directors. After her film career, she became head of one of Japan's oldest academies of classical dance (noh tradition, etc.). Thus, her role in Naruse's Nagareru has a meta-cinematic note (as she is seen teaching little girls to dance).

Not yet seen any of the Eclipse releases -- just back from France -- which was an interesting trip despite my fractured left wrist and badly sprained right knee (plus an episode of threatened phlebitis).

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#64 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Apr 09, 2011 11:34 pm

Just watched Apart From You -- which looks far better than any other copy I've seen. It remains (after at least half a dozen viewings) one of my favorite silent films (right up there with Docks of New York).

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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#65 Post by Mark Rickerby » Tue Apr 19, 2011 2:29 am

Any ideas on who are the string players accompanying Holcomb and Horvitz?

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ellipsis7
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#66 Post by ellipsis7 » Sun May 08, 2011 11:43 am


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bottled spider
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#67 Post by bottled spider » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:29 pm

Thanks for the Site & Sound link. Good review.

Re: Street without End
SpoilerShow
The incorporation of the Lubitsch clip was sublimely surreal. For a minute it's as if the projectionist got the reels mixed up. Apart from the oddity of a talkie clip appearing in a silent, it comes as a shock to realize that the Lubitsch predates the Naruse by a few years. The Naruse seems primitive in the way that one can sense the director's delight in simply recording things on film (Mount Fuji, the view out of a car window), as if cinema were still a new medium; the Lubitsch is savvier.
I liked the modern score quite a bit, but quickly became irritated that it was continuous rather than punctuational. The film works fine with no score at all.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#68 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jul 06, 2011 11:34 am

The Naruse seems primitive in the way that one can sense the director's delight in simply recording things on film
I think that by the time of Street Without End, Naruse was already a pretty sophisticated film maker -- by and large he was doing things for a purpose not just naively reveling in picture showing.

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manicsounds
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#69 Post by manicsounds » Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:28 am

Mikio Naruse seems to have a fascination with people being hit by moving vehicles, with 3 (so far that I've watched) films in this set having a vehicle accident. (Although none of them are say as graphically shocking, like Shohei Imamura's "Intentions Of Murder" for example.)

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bottled spider
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#70 Post by bottled spider » Sun Sep 02, 2012 6:30 pm

manicsounds wrote:Mikio Naruse seems to have a fascination with people being hit by moving vehicles, with 3 (so far that I've watched) films in this set having a vehicle accident. (Although none of them are say as graphically shocking, like Shohei Imamura's "Intentions Of Murder" for example.)
That proclivity was mentioned in a commentary track or supplement to I don't remember which of his films. If I remember correctly, the prevalence of vehicle-pedestrian accidents, caused by a rapid increase of new drivers, was a topical issue and a common theme of melodramas of the day.

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JonasEB
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#71 Post by JonasEB » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:25 am

Recently re-watched No Blood Relation...

Apart From You, Every Night Dreams, and Street Without End are all wonderful films, Apart From You my favorite of the lot. These show the effortless simplicity, unforced emotions, and relaxed momentum I love about Naruse's Wife! Be Like a Rose and Hideko the Bus Conductor. First rate across the board. No Blood Relation, on the other hand, lacks discipline. I wouldn't be shocked to learn that the average shot length per second is below 1. Not one scene in the film is given an opportunity to breathe and the sequences that do require this pace, such as the department store sighting/chase, are robbed of a necessary shift in rhythm. This story isn't asking for such an insane pace. I might say No Blood Relation is indulgent but Naruse's technique here is so unrefined and applied with such little taste that I think indulgence would give Naruse's craft credit it isn't due. Again, a lot of this has to do with the hummingbird speed of the film. The tracking shots are sloppy, I believe this is clearly seen next to the other films in the set (not to mention Yasujiro Ozu's own track-happy films of the period.) Compositions that ask for a simple, fixed camera set-up are riddled with shaky adjustments. I'll save most of the criticism for Naruse's non-stop use of the tracking zoom on his actors' faces. It's applied so much that it loses any impact it might have had and, at a crucial point, is reduced to comical excess (the tug of war over the child.) When I first watched this film, I imagined Shochiku's executives viewing it with Naruse, yelling "BAKA!" each and every time this gimmick rears its ugly head. It's a wholly disappointing experience (as of this writing, Avalanche is the only other Naruse I've encountered that I have found as underwhelming as No Blood Relation.)

But Naruse rebounds...and does so exceptionally. The following films also use the track-zoom but they do so with restraint (soon enough vanishing entirely from Naruse's tool kit, a welcome event) and Naruse has a firm grasp on the dramatic potential of each of his scenes. I think of the aftermath of Terugiku's confrontation with her family in Apart From You, that scene on the rocks by the sea, the calm amid the choppy water and rugged landscape. A precise example of the, "...great river with a calm surface and a raging current in its depths," the type of thing absent from No Blood Relation.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#72 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:35 pm

After looking at Apart From You (essentially) frame-by-frame, it became one of my top favorites too.

I MUCH prefer Not Blood Relations to Avalanche. ;~} Both are better than Battle of the Roses, however.

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JonasEB
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#73 Post by JonasEB » Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:55 am

I would pick NBR over Avalanche. As aggravating as I find the former, the latter is just a dull affair. Battle of the Roses is one of the several dozen I have waiting to be enjoyed...or perhaps endured...in the future.

The Eclipse liner notes make much of Street Without End's base source material but I think No Blood Relation's plot seems to be of about the same level of worth. The difference is in Naruse's handling of the material - one is elegant and adroit, the other seems to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. Alone, the Smiling Lieutenant transition from Street Without End, a remarkable piece of elision, exposition, and commentary, is worth more than the whole of No Blood Relation. It's such a sophisticated gesture. Whatever the films temporary didactic shortcomings (that unnecessary, even misleading, intertitle - “Even today, feudalistic notions of ‘family’ crush the pure love of young people in Japan.”,) its handling of class and commerce, and that specific area of Tokyo, are completely reasonable and its building anger and final clean slate ending for all concerned seems well earned; it's mature Naruse in every way.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#74 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:32 am

It is unfortunate that Naruse's career prior to the year he attained mastery (1933 -- with Apart From You and Every Night Dreams) is largely unexplorable. We have only NBR and Flunky. Only one (lost) film separates NBR and Apart From You -- what was it like (in terms of technique -- and overall quality).

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JonasEB
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Re: Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse

#75 Post by JonasEB » Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:20 am

I guess that's Moth-eaten Spring, the one Ozu is said to have greatly admired. The BFI box liner notes refer to it as his first masterpiece - apparently based on Ozu's commendation alone - so it's really too bad that it's one of the missing titles.

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