Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Yama No Oto (The Sound of The Mountain)

It was time to go back and immerse myself in the fabulous world of earlier Japanese cinema and I did with this incredibly interesting 1954 film by Mikio Naruse. Considered by some as possibly Naruse’s most perfect entry in his preferred genre of shomin-geki (films about the daily lives of the lower middle-classes – and I mention this even when what I saw in here it does not seem to me lower middle class-), possessed of a measured pace and a melancholy, lyrical undercurrent and they couldn’t be more right.

Based on the novel with the same name by Yasunari Kawabata, tells the story of the Ogata family with the events witnessed from the perspective of its aging patriarch, Shingo who begins to observe and question more closely his relations with the other members of his family who include his wife Yasuko, his philandering son Shuichi (who, in traditional Japanese custom, lives with his wife in his parents’ house), his daughter-in-law Kikuko, and his married daughter Fusako, who has left her husband and returned to her family home with her two young daughter.

Knowing that his son is having an affair he quietly puts pressure upon Shuichi to quit his infidelity. At the same time, he uncomfortably becomes aware that he has begun to experience a fatherly, yet erotic attachment to Kikuko, whose quiet suffering in the face of her husband’s unfaithfulness, physical attractiveness, and filial devotion contrast strongly with the bitter resentment and homeliness of his own daughter. It is a story with meditations about life, love and companionship.

If you wonder why I wrote so much about the story, I’ll let you know why. To my western eyes I couldn’t believe what I was seeing happening in the screen and knowing how Japanese society behave in the post-war society I was quite confused. The movie didn’t allow me to understand if what I was seeing was truth or my imagination due to the extraordinary acting. So I did some research about the novel and that’s how I finally found that what I was seeing was NOT my imagination! It is as it looks with the extremely good performances by Setsuko Hara (Kikuko) and Sô Yamamura (Shingo).

Feel like this is the best Naruse movie I have seen up-to-date as very fast engaged me in this not so traditional story (that can be very contemporary) in a magnificent black and white film with many still camera shots, long shots, and outstandingly good performances by all actors.

The best article to understand this powerful Naruse film is here and I suggest you read it after you watch this incredibly good film. Just as a teaser here is an excerpt from the article:

"If you have ever wondered what happened to the various Setsuko Hara characters from all those Ozu films after she was forced to trade her life as a daughter for a probably loveless marriage, Sound of the Mountain is the film for you. Hara, the most delicate member of the repertory company of actors gracing the works of the Japanese classicists, is here faced with slow marital suffocation, depicted with typical lucidity by director Mikio Naruse. "

Worth mention is that Sô Yamamura won the Best Actor award at the 1955 Mainichi Film Concours. This is a must be seen movie for those that want to explore the world of Mikio Naruse and want to continue their joyful voyage into earlier Japanese cinema.

Big Enjoy!!!

No comments yet