For Apart from You, Mikio Naruse turned his camera on the lives of working women, which he would continue to do throughout his long career. Here, he contrasts the life of an aging geisha, whose angry teenage son is ashamed of her career, with that of her youthful counterpart, a lovely young girl resentful of her family for selling her into a life of ignominy. This gently devastating evocation of women’s limited options in Depression-era Japan was a critical breakthrough for the director. –The Criterion Collection
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