Saturday, May 19, 2007

Onna Ga Kaidan Wo Agaru Toki (When a Woman Ascends the Stairs)

What an outstanding beautiful and interesting movie!! Let me elaborate on what I mean, as this is not your regular beauty.

This 1960 black and white movie by Mikio Naruse tells a very interesting story about one woman, Mama, that works in the Ginza district where Japanese business men go after work to drink and whatever else they can get. She is approaching the age of thirty, an age where she has to make a choice, get married or open a bar of her own.

What I find very interesting is not only her story full of bittersweet disappointments but also the opportunity to see the rituals of the Ginza district -that include girl-client and business ways- and how different, yet similar, Japanese culture is from western culture in many more ways than the evident ones they show in the movie. This movie has layers and layers of hidden messages –those that depend on the eyes of the viewer- without the use of metaphors, simply interwoven into the story by mean of an excellent performance and the most incredible director.

First let me tell you about Hideko Takamine that plays Mama –her professional name- or Keiko Yashido –the character name. According to the imDb this actress, born in 1924, has many honors from different Japanese and international awards for best actress. The last one is from 1996 and is a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Japanese Academy.

In this movie, one of the 179 she made –wow-, her performance is so believable, suave and simply great that it will impress you strongly as definitively she steals the movie, she is the movie. This is the first time I watch a movie with her and hopefully in the future I will watch more with her.

Then there is Mikio Naruse. This is also my first movie by him out of 89 he has directed, to be sure of this hard statement, I checked my collection of oriental movies just to make sure that I have never seen something by him, because I could not believe I never watched any of his movies!!

Mikio Naruse is a poet with images! Took a story -that could have been as many others- and converted into pure poetry. What a great filmmaker and storyteller. But most of all, he is a true artist that created a masterpiece and a great work of art.

Now I am wondering about his body of work. I need to watch more movies by him… and if this is not enough, now I want to see work by other Naruse contemporary directors, Ozu and Mizoguchi. If you are interested in learning more about Mikio Naruse check here.

This is a breathtaking film.

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