EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|LATE CHRYSANTHEMUMS (BANGIKU) (director: Mikio Naruse; screenwriters: Sumie Tanaka/Toshiro Ide/based on three stories by Fumiko Hayashi; cinematographer: Masao Tamai; editor: Eiji Ooi; music: Ichirô Saitô; cast: Haruko Sugimura (Okin), Sadako Sawamura (Nobu), Chikako Hosokawa (Tamae), Yuko Mochizuki (Otomi), Ken Uehara (Tabe), Ineko Arima (Sachiko), Hiroshi Koizumi (Kiyoshi), Bontaro Miake (Suzuki Seki), Sonosuke Sawamura (Sentaro), Daisuke Katô (Itayu); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sanezumi Fujimoto; Criterion Collection; 1954-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)|
with compassion, feeling and clarity by the great
by Dennis Schwartz
gripping humanistic tragicomic character study of four
aging middle-aged former geisha girls in postwar
Japan, who look back at their past with regrets but
maintain an inner toughness to survive their current
problematic life. The black-and-white psychological
drama is directed with compassion, feeling and clarity
by the great Mikio Naruse ("When A Woman
Ascends the Stairs"/"Street Without End"/"Sudden
Rain"). It's based
on three stories by Fumiko Hayashi.
main focus is on the unmarried and childless Okin (Haruko Sugimura),
who lives alone with her mute maid (Sonosuke Sawamura).
Okin's an embittered ex-geisha who worked in Manchuria
during the war servicing the troops and has had bad
luck with men. One lover, an obsessed client named
Miake), always with money problems that made him a
jailbird, tried to kill her in a
double-suicide in Manchuria; another handsome military
lover named Tabe (Ken Uehara) coldly dumped her to
marry another. The strong-willed Okin calls men
vampires, who try to live off women and in a
single-minded way embraces a solitary and restrained
life-style though still yearning for a real
relationship. Okin manages to navigate the postwar new
economy successfully as a moneylender and unwilling to
lend money to her deadbeat friends without collecting
a high interest. The tightwad wisely invests her
savings in real estate ventures with the cheerfully
astute financial adviser Itaya (Daisuke Kato) to
become a prosperous landowner and landlady.
three former geisha friends Nobu (Sadako Sawamura), Tamae (Chikako Hosokawa), and Otomi (Yuko Mochizuki) all have
money problems and are poor. Nobu
and her husband run a small bar, that barely ekes
out a meager living. They owe money from a loan they
took out with Okin that they can't pay back, and
their financial problems prevent Nobu from having a
child. The other two friends are widows. Otomi is a
gambler, whose hardened live-at-home modern daughter (Ineko Arima) abandons mom
to marry an older man who will support her and runs
off with him without any goodbyes. Tamae's slick
sometimes live-at-home son Kiyoshi (Hiroshi Koizumi) gives up
being a gigolo and leaves mom's Tokyo home to earn
money as a coal miner in far off Hokkaido. The women stoically accept their losses as
their karma and bond together to share their
disappointments and express their resentment that
their friend Okin has become so greedy.
When Okin's former lovers
Seki and Tabe make separate appearances to beg for
money, she turns her back on them and in one case
burns Tabe's soldier photograph to let us know that
the sexy man is now looked upon with contempt.
Though none of the women seem set for a rosy future and their friendship has its down moments, it's still this friendship that allows them to have at least companions to share their pains and joys and help them get over some of their tougher hurdles.
REVIEWED ON 4/27/2013 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ