Directed in 1956, the year that prostitution was outlawed in Japan, Flowing explores the inner workings of a changing world, as traditional geishas faced the impending decline of their hidden way of life and the looming spectre of prostitution. It depicts the story of a widow, Rika (Kinuyo Tanaka), who is forced to work for a living and becomes a maid in a struggling Tokyo geisha house where its proud mistress (Isuzu Yamada) tries to save the house from becoming either a restaurant or a brothel. It is through Rika that we are introduced to the various geishas, who drink and fight, worry over the lack of clients, and attempt to stave off imminent extinction. Based on a book by Koda Aya, Flowing is a showcase for both Naruse’s powers of empathy, and his natural talent in constructing complex female characters on-screen. The result is one of the most innovative and revealing of all geisha films. —Eureka Entertainment
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
Falderal, as a result of your post, I now have added this film!
If there was a singular moment of silence in your life would you fill it with noise? Why? To ignore the unbearable sound of just living in one more meaningless moment? Okada enters in noise, leaves in silence; she is also the only character to have anything nice to say to Tanaka when she arrives. Naruse points us to hierarchies. Let us figure them out, shall we?
Kinuyo Tanaka's role as Rika has to be one of the most well written and interestingly portrayed character in cinema.
Mikio Naruse seems fascinated by the descriptions of the decay of traditional Japanese institutions. Marriage in REPAST and SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN, Geisha houses in FLOWING. Naruse isn't so interested in depicting violent scenes exemplifying his intentions, he prefers to let his camera film the little cracks that forecast the future and inevitable breakdown. Highly recommended.
Starting today, and for most of April, Film Forum in New York will be honoring five of Japan’s greatest actresses in a portmanteau retrospective