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Weathering the Storm: The Enduring Cinema of Mikio Naruse

Weathering the Storm: The Enduring Cinema of Mikio Naruse Sponsored by Scarecrow Video, University of Washington East Asia Center &The Consulate General of Japan, Seattle


"[MIKIO NARUSE's] importance is without doubt the equal of Ozu's and Mizoguchi's." - CAHIERS DU CINEMA


"Sadly, like the exploited lives of his resilient, imperfect heroines, Naruse's cinema is also a quiet, unrecognized triumph." - SENSES OF CINEMA


Although the recognized equal of Ozu, Mizoguchi, and Kurosawa, master Japanese director Mikio Naruse (1905-1969) has slipped into near obscurity in North America. Revered by Kurosawa, deified in Japan and championed by our own Susan Sontag, Naruse finally gets a North American retrospective, the first in over three decades. Northwest Film Forum is showing ten Naruse masterpieces, most newly struck and restored. We have also commissioned an original Aono Jikken Ensemble score to the two silent films in the program.


Born in 1905 to a poor embroiderer and his wife who both died young, Naruse had to quit school early to earn a living. His intimate knowledge of the restraints of family bonds, class and money made him the great master of the shomen-geiki, a genre focused on lower-middle-class daily life. While his visual style varies, his cinema is consciously actor-oriented and it's the emotional rhythms of his characters that drive his films. Naruse's former assistant Akira Kurosawa compared his favorite director's cinema to "a deep river with a quiet surface disguising a fast-raging current underneath."


For Naruse, the struggles of women formed the centerpiece of life's banquet of sorrow. His former geishas, aging Ginza bar hostesses, destitute widows and single mothers search for happiness despite accumulating evidence of its absence. His films may be "invariably about disappointment," writes critic Phillip Lopate; however, "he himself does not disappoint, no more than does Chekhov, an artist he greatly resembles in stimulating our appetite for larger and more bitter doses of truth."


With sincere thanks to Cinematheque Ontario's extraordinary James Quandt for organizing this twenty-city retrospective and to the Japan Foundation for striking new prints, we are thrilled to offer Seattle audiences a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the films of the fourth master of the golden age of Japanese cinema.


Introduction and descriptions adapted from the writings of James Quandt of Cinematheque Ontario and others.


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