Considered one of the finest late Naruses and a model of film biography, A Wanderer’s Notebook features remarkable performances by Hideko Takamine – Phillip Lopate calls it “probably her greatest performance” – and Kinuyo Tanaka as mother and daughter living from hand to mouth in Twenties Tokyo. Based on the life and career of Fumiko Hayashi, the novelist whose work Naruse adapted to the screen several times, A Wanderer’s Notebook traces her bitter struggle for literary recognition in the first half of the twentieth century – her affairs with feckless men, the jobs she took to survive (peddler, waitress, bar maid), and her arduous, often humiliating attempts to get published in a male-dominated culture. Elegantly shot in Scope and “enriched by Hideko Takamine’s luminous performance” (Variety) as the tenacious, hard drinking Hayashi, A Wanderer’s Notebook characteristically offsets its heroine’s hard won success (fame and admiration, a big house, a decent husband) with a melancholy finale, in which the author is visited by a man who once loved her and a river of regret suddenly seems to flow under her “surface calm.” “Takamine’s portrayal is a haunting one” (Variety), and A Wanderer’s Notebook has struck many as a swan song for both the actress (blazing, fearless) and her director. —Cinematheque Ontario
Mikio Naruse is one of the least known of Japan’s early master directors, both in the West and in Japan, yet he created some of the most moving, darkly beautiful works in Japanese cinema. Like Kenji Mizoguchi, Naruse showed an uncanny understanding for the psychology of women. Like Yasujiro Ozu, he preferred subtle shifts of character over broad strokes of plot. Unlike either of these early greats, however, Naruse’s vision of humanity was much darker and more clinical. He stripped all vestiges of hope or acceptance from his films, what remains is only a willful struggle to endure. His relentlessly negative view of human existence has resulted in Naruse’s often being labeled a nihilist.
Born in Tokyo, in 1905, Naruse was the youngest of three sons of a desperately poor embroiderer. Although he excelled in elementary school, his family could not afford to further his education. He was instead enrolled in a two-year technical school. There, he spent virtually all of his free time… read more