Monday, February 5, 2007

February 5th Log

1951, Mikio Naruse, Japan
Repeat Viewing, DVD

I am moved by the sadness to be found in the simple lives of people in the limitless space of the universe.” Mikio Naruse's Repast is adapted from a novel by Fumiko Hayashi (the film opens with this powerful quote from the author). Hayashi was Naruse’s favorite author and her female perspective seamlessly integrated with Naruse’s woman psychological point of view. Repast is another shomin-geki (working class) family drama of a troubled marriage. Here we find a woman (Michiyo) who is stuck with a man that is uninterested in sharing a life with her outside of her daily house chores (cooking and cleaning). Played by the incomparable Setsuko Hara, Michiyo is on the verge of exploding at the sight of her husbands (played by Ken Uehara) flirtatious actions when his younger niece arrives. She longs for happiness, and to return to her home in Tokyo with her mother and siblings. However, when she returns, she discovers a postwar city now in destruction and sadness. Ultimately Michiyo decides that perhaps she is best to return to her husband (and of course her beloved cat). Hara’s performance is absolutely astonishing in the way she conveys complex feelings through subtle movements and gestures. Always a beautiful and elegant screen presence, Hara typifies the psychological state of her characters hidden sadness through an exterior smile and laughter. Yet she is complicated and imperfect herself, as Naruse presents these characters not as a heroine or villain, but as deeply human. Naruse builds a mood through these buried emotions and complexities of the characters. As with all his films, Naruse captures a pitch perfect tone in which he flawlessly controls the emotional reality of the characters and storytelling. In the end, Michiyo returns to her husband even if there is no hope for a future she longs for. Is this an acceptance of suffering? Perhaps, but I think Naruse expresses it more in a way of understanding the way things are rather the accepting. By that I mean an understanding of human behavior and an understanding of the moment. This is neither sadness or happiness, but rather just the moment. Repast is another emotionally complex masterwork from one of the most authentic filmmakers in defining the essence of human emotion and behavior.


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