Keijiro and Ayako Kono (Masayuki Mori and Chikage Awashima) seem like a picture-book upper middle-class family. He is a respected professor and the couple has two amiable children (a high school-aged girl and middle school-aged boy). But the Kono’s domestic siutuation is more complicated than it seems on the surface. The children are actually the illegitimate children of Kono’s long-time mistress, Miho (Hideko Takamine). To compensate for giving up the children, the Konos subsidize a bar which Miho operates. Ayako, interested in eliminating her husband’s continuing interest in Miho, pays the bar girls to “spy” on Miho, in the hope of showing Miho is not “faithful” to her husband. Miho becomes tired of the situation, and proposes that she break off relations with Kono but be given outright owner ship of the bar. After Ayako flatly rejects this (not wanting to bear the expense), Miho’s mother (played by the delightfully redoubtable Choko Iida) suggests that, for leverage, Miho demand the children back. This proposal infuriates Ayako, and she decides to sell the bar out from under Miho. Miho retaliates by telling her son (who thinks she is only a somewhat engaging but disreputable friend of her parents) about his true parentage. He comes home distraught and locks himself into his room; when his big sister persuades him to let her in, he tells her the truth in turn. The two children angrily reject all three “parents”. Afterwards, Miho and her mother are seen packing up their belongings, in preparation for a move to more humble quarters and a new job as operators of a street vendor stall. Miho’s mother nonetheless sings cheerfully as she packs. To Miho’s complaint that singing is out of place under the circumstances, her mother replies that she likes to sing – and things can’t be helped by not singing. As the final scene, we see the two children in different school uniforms at a new school, it appears that they demanded to be sent away to boarding school – so as to avoid having to deal (at least for a while) with the problematic adults in their lives. —IMDb Review
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
The single largest difference between Ozu and Naruse; Naruse saw the dissolution of the family as insular, a self-destroying unit. Be wary of affluence, the only true barometer of living is in failure and suffering. In a filmmaker renowned for his skill at ending a picture, this contains maybe the greatest ending in his oeuvre. Why it is routinely overlooked is a mystery as grand as any in cinema.