Adapted from a book by Kodo Aya, Rika is a widow whose dire financial circumstances force her to take a housemaid assignment in a failing Tokyo geisha house. Naruse then reveals, through Rika’s eyes, the mistress’s valiant struggles to keep the house from regressing into a brothel or a restaurant.
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Something perfectly crafted and truly profound. Art of the highest magnitude, but presented w/ humility. Is it his humility that keeps the name of Naruse held closely to the breast of such a small number of we initiates (compared to the other three Japanese masters)? This is a stunning ensemble piece, but it doesn't exactly shake you by the lapels. One of the best about suffering as a lineage. Exquisite performances.
As one would expect, Naruse's view of the geisha business is ultimately ambivalent; likewise, the equivocal final scenes, showing the careful composition of a master director, bring together the various characters and varied generations, the song of their disappearing trade one of loss and celebration.
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.
As art imitates life and vice versa (via generations of actresses and roles), traditional ways decay to further decadent erosions of disguised pragmatism. Through the ebbs and flows, highs and lows of the fallen female character, Naruse, with that ingenious end scene shimmering with poignancy, coagulates a moment of sheer consciousness in converging pathways before time streams on with undeterred impetus once again.