When a Woman Ascends the Stairs might be Japanese filmmaker Mikio Naruse’s finest hour—a delicate, devastating study of a woman, Keiko (Hideko Takamine), who works as a bar hostess in Tokyo’s very modern postwar Ginza district, and entertains businessmen after work.
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Excellent! It is a story everyone can relate to, although when I first saw it, it seemed highly personal. I was trying to save up for a down payment on a house, but no matter how good my credit was or how much I had, it wasn't the right timing. So the story obviously moved me.
A meticulous, quietly devastating slice of genteel squalor, in which the relationship between dignity and independence is not only inverse, it's perverse -- neither is really possible given the pressures of economic need and social expectation. The best outcome available for these women is that they accept and excel at the roles in which they find themselves cast, and have their faces ready at the top of the stairs.
I love the sparing, pointed use of first person voice-over narration to shade the formal beats of the film, never giving too much away and never existing merely to provide explication of Keiko's inner world. Each little monologue feels like a small contraction, a small tightening, the path narrowing.
Second Naruse, even better than the first. Once again a wonderful balance between serious social drama and a light playful humanist affair. Fantastic storytelling, beautifully photographed in widescreen black and white, and a perfect ending once again
Melodrama at it's finest that's not merely a play on emotions, but a complex look at the place of women in post-WWII Japan and struggle to establish oneself outside of the subservience of a male dominated world. The struggle to decide how to basically live, and maintain virtue amidst a world of corruption. Naruse camera work isn't revolutionary, but still compelling with it's focus on the herione Keiko.
I think this movie lacks something to be 5 stars. The acting is good, the directing, the soundtrack is also good. The woman's story is interesting (sometimes not like the scene in her mother's home), but overal, I feel it still can't reach the 5 stars.