Thursday, February 1, 2007

February 1st Log

1954, Mikio Naruse, Japan
Repeat Vieiwng, DVD

This month, I will be watching and re-watching the films of Japan's Mikio Naruse, the often forgotten master of the post-war era. I think of the four postwar Japanese masters (Ozu, Mizoguchi, Naruse and Kurosawa), Naruse would rate second behind only Ozu among my favorites. However, they each share wonderful and defintive filmmaking styles and techniques of their own.... Sound of the Mountain is Mikio Naruse’s adaptation of the beloved novel by Yasunari Kawabata, who was the first Japanese author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Though dealing more with a middle-class Japanese family (as opposed to the lower class of most of his post-war work), the story and themes are very typical of a Naruse film (here it is especially true of his 1951 Repast, which featured the same actors- Setsuko Hara and Ken Uehara in a troubled marital relationship).. Sound of a Mountain opens with a typical Naruse shot of establishing the city before quickly transitioning into the suburban home. This transition of traveling from work (city/Tokyo) to the Kamakura suburb (a garden-filled and seemingly closed-in home of innocence) is one of the underlying expressions of the film. Naruse presents a pitch-perfect rhythmic flow of repetitive everyday life and the tone is always striking with emotional force. Naruse establishes space, constructs the space with feeling and tension, and then breaks it all into separate emotional layers. The film has a constant poetic touch, yet it is subtly hidden amongst the realist emotions detailed both on and under the surface. These emotions are authentic in that they evoke a complexity, unpredictability, and spirituality that is truthful of human behavior. Helping capture this, are terrifically restrained emotional performances by the cast (of course Hara is especially wonderful in her typically radiant beauty and delicateness). The husband and wife failing relationship is expressed through their lack of affection for each other, which is contrasted by the deep understanding and connection shared by the daughter and her father-in-law. This emotional dilemma reaches an philosophical level. Naruse has a more literary style then the transcendent grace of filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu. However, Naruse proves an equal master of cinematic space and environment. This is best captured in the final scene of the film, a beautiful sequence of mastery achievement. Shot among an expressive garden environment, Naruse composes the scene with subtle camera movement, framing, as well as open space to represent the freedom of the emotional relationship. There is a precise sense of longing and separation that reflects the rich emotional layers of the entire film. The scene is a truly sad moment, but one which perfectly completes the film and does so with a stroke of masterful filmmaking and performances. Sound of a Mountain may not be the most significant or visionary work of Naruse career, but to me it is one of his most moving and among my personal favorites!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home