Retrospective looks into cult director’s films on women

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Retrospective looks into cult director’s films on women

Few filmmakers are as great and as unknown as Mikio Naruse. In the spheres of arthouse cinema, however, his name is revered by filmmakers and critics from all over the world, including such leading figures as Wim Venders, Hou Shao-shien and Susan Sontag.
His rich portrayals of the female psyche in his women characters inspired the director Park Chan-wook to name the bakery in his “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” after the veteran filmmaker (the shop owner explains in the film that he named his bakery after a pastry teacher in Japan he ardently admires).
Now Seoul is hosting a retrospective of the late director, “Mikio Naruse: Woman, Light and Melodramas of Shadow.” Ten films have been selected that focus on his intense dramas, the director’s trademark.
The central theme of his work has been women struggling with life.
He has shot six films based on novels by Fumiko Hayashi including “Repast,” a popular novel depicting the psychological changes in an ordinary couple living in Osaka after their niece comes to visit.
He liked to portray his female protagonists in various stages of life.
In “Ginza Cosmetics,” he tells the story of a middle-aged bar hostess who falls for a young businessman who she happens to guide on a city tour; “When a Woman Ascends the Stairs” details the agony of a geisha who is torn between reality and her dreams; “Scattered Clouds,” rendered in color widescreen, depicts a woman who loves the young man who was driving the car that killed her husband; “A Wanderer’s Notebook,” a story by the writer Hayashi, concerns a cafe waitress who takes a journey with a man who appreciates a poem she wrote.
His films featured minimal dialogue and unintrusive camera work. Instead, they relied on bold images created by the dramatic rendering of light and shadows and subtle psychological nuances coordinated in every glance, gesture and movement of his actors.
His style of drama was once said to be like a “great river with a calm surface and a raging current in its depths” by the renowned director Akira Kurosawa. Perhaps that partly explains why his films are revered by so many of his contemporaries; his movies still challenge directors to follow the conventions of the dramatic genre without creating dramatic incidents or narratives.


by Park Soo-mee

The retrospective of Mikio Naruse runs through Aug. 25 at Hypertech Nada. Admission costs 7,000 won. For more information call (02) 766-3390.

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