The Ishimura family barely ekes out a living by combining the wages of parents and children alike, but their economic survival is threatened when the family’s four sons begin to rebel against their overbearing father. Weaving together several plotlines with a skillful blend of realism and melodrama, The Whole Family Works prefigures Naruse’s masterpieces to come and calls into question the oft-repeated opinion that the wartime years represent a slump between his earlier work and the postwar melodramas. In fact, the film’s suggestion of a parallel between wartime militarism and patriarchal repression was daring for its time. —UCLA
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
A sublimely dark chamber piece of a large family, where the father is confronted with filial piety, as his four eldest sons make to leave the family, and not support their parents. Naruse shoots beautiful scenes of family life impressionistically, with an evocative film score as well as the use of street sounds and nature. The final denouement is the boys performing somersaults of joy upstairs of their parents.