In Wife! Be Like a Rose!, the effervescent and charming Chiba Sachiko (Naruse’s wife at the time) plays Kimiko, the bold daughter who travels to the countryside to find her estranged father to seek his consent for her forthcoming marriage . When Kimiko discovers that her father has taken up with a young geisha and is just as difficult as ever, her journey forces her to reconsider her ideas about familial ties. The film was Naruse’s biggest success to date and one of his warmest films. Wife! Be Like a Rose! won first place in Kinema Junpo that year and became one of the exceedingly rare Naruse films to earn distribution in the US. —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
"It is certain that neither men nor women are clearly defined personalities but rather vibrations, flows, schizzes and ‘knots.’” —Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus
Holding the distinction of being the first Japanese film to play in New York, this subtle drama is one of Naruse's most successful early works and was voted Best Film of the year by Kinema Junpo magazine. A daughter travels from Tokyo to a village in the mountains to see her estranged father and to meet his new family. She tries to persuade him to return to her mother but comes to realise that this won't be easy.....
That's not quite true about it being the first Japanese film to be shown in NY. Kinugasa's Crossroads played here a a few years earlier (in '32, I believe) under a vastly different title, not unlike Wife! Be Like a Rose!, which was marketed under "Kimiko", the name of its protagonist.