Dancing Girl (1951) may not be as successful a picture as Ginza Cosmetics or Meshi, but it is an important transitional film, as Naruse deploys some of the flamboyant melodramatic devices that he used in the 1930s in the context of a story that is very much a postwar narrative. Elaborate, distinctive camera movements at moments of high dramatic tension tend to displace acting technique in the representation of psychological states. —Catherine Russell
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
I would agree that it's not among Naruse's best films; in fact, I prefer the two other Naruses released in 1951 alone, 'Repast' and 'Ginza Cosmetics'. That said, it's not wholly devoid of interest. And it happens to feature Okada Mariko's debut performance, who, given Naruse's proclivity for shooting in sequence, is a bit awkward in her early scenes but gets better as the film goes on. The rest, as they say, is history.
Unhappiness in a house torn apart by the mother's long-time lover, a spiritually- disillusioned husband, a ballerina daughter and confused son, which Naruse and Kawabata imbue with a wondrous Sirkian delerium, using Stravinsky, Chopin, and Tchaikowsky, with serene moments on a seashore. Post-war sentiments still inhabit these sad lives, and this time Naruse gives them a second chance to rediscover their happiness.