When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. The film’s time structure thus runs on dual tracks: first, the forward linear narrative, packed with incident (suicide, illness, marriage proposals, deceptions, one-night stands, abandonment); and second, the repeated figure of the stairs, with its philosophical musings, when the film catches its breath and loops back, making you understand that in a sense Keiko is getting nowhere, except in her awareness of what she is up against. ’s debut feature represented a quantum leap in the audiovisual grammar of Mexican cinema. 5 – 1980: New Wave, Cinema City, Jackie Chan & John Woo, The History of Hong Kong Action Cinema Pt. Part of it comes from the detached point of view in Keiko’s own voice-overs, part from the careful plotting that makes each successive outcome seem plausible rather than operatic, and most of it from the visual style, which records the drama in evenhanded, worldly fashion. Of all Japanese directors Mikio Naruse was the one most concerned with the … Sprawling across more than half a century of American history, Martin Scorsese’s crime saga combines epic ambition with a mood of isolation and dissolution. Published on Sun 1 Jul 2007 05.09 EDT. The veil of social decency morphs into a veil of affection, relations predicated on the commodity of love making true human connection impossible to find. Satire and sarcasm infused in drama do not function in the same manner in Japan. She’s finally human and she loves, and the scenes that evolve out of this development are the film’s most devastating. Thus, popping in The Criterion Collection DVD of his 1960 film, When A Woman Ascends The Stairs (Onna Ga Kaidan Wo Agaru Toki), I had no preset expectations of what the film would bring, and whose style (if any, of the five other named directors, Naruse’s style would most be near. Keiko, a middle-aged bar hostess who must choose to either get married or buy a bar of her own. This should not catch us by surprise. Synopsis: This is the story of Mama, a.k.a. When a woman Ascends the Stairs is about a bar hostess named Keiko, played by Hideko Takamine, who wants to move up or out of her life style. Setsuko Hara was the first Japanese actresses I truly recognized across a body of work; she was a luminary personality, and Hideko Takamine deserves to hold the same company, proving herself to be an incomparable muse in her own right. Better Than Food 6,604 views. And though he had been making films starting from the silent era, Naruse had no trouble adjusting his objective style to a … What do they beget? When A Woman Ascends The Stairs is a Japanese film about a bar hostess in Tokyo’s luxurious Ginza district who encounters a variety of social challenges as she meets with her family, her friends, and a wide range of customers. 7 – 2000-Present: Life After the Handover, The History of Hong Kong Action Cinema Pt. The stairs in question are those of a bar in the red-light district of Tokyo and the woman who ascends them is Mama-San, the bar's chief hostess, but the stairs may just as well be those of a brothel for the girls who work these bars are basically prostitutes, (even in Japan in 1960 you could never be that explicit). Though we cannot but sympathize with Keiko, we are also allowed to judge her dispassionately. Fri 29 Jun 2007 18.54 EDT. Get info about new releases, essays and interviews on the Current, Top 10 lists, and sales. The scene where Sekine’s real wife tells Keiko that her husband keeps getting into trouble by chasing women and believing his own lies, while children circle the empty lot on a beat-up bike trailing a tin can, with power-plant stacks in the distance, is classic forlorn Naruse. She plays Keiko, a widow who supports herself as a bar madam, the chief attraction in whatever bar she works, by virtue of her beauty and superior refinement (hence the honorific Mama). SEE DETAILS. Movies. Entertaining businessmen for a living is not something she wishes to do the rest of her life - but to get out of it she either has to get more money to buy her … For information, go to http://www.japan1960.blogspot.com Asked to help pay for an operation that would correct her nephew’s polio, she discards the plea as too expensive, and we never do find out if she springs for the loan. 4.6 89%. She weeps for herself, but do we weep for and with her? A middle-aged bar hostess, constantly in debt, is faced with numerous social constraints and challenges posed to her by her family, customers and friends. I’m not that good,” she mutters. The posthumous international triumph of Mikio Naruse is one of the most unique corrections in film history. Naruse’s filming style, never ostentatious, shows exquisite tact. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. 6 – 1980-2000: Handover & Second Wave, The History of Hong Kong Action Pt. And yet at the end of the day, she must put a cap on her emotions and saunter up those same solitary steps and don the genteel facade expected of her. No one is that good—or that evil—in a Naruse movie; he neither ennobles nor demeans, but shows realistically the ways that we are all mixed, contradictory creatures. The veil of social decency morphs into a veil of affection, relations predicated on the commodity of love making true human connection impossible to find. Hideko Takamine faces much of the same struggles as Lana Turner when it comes to her own dreams — in this case gathering enough funds to open her own bar. Receive a $6 Movie Rental. The crisp black-and-white CinemaScope, xylophone-inflected jazz score, and modernist bar interiors give When a Woman Ascends the Stairs a glamorous, International Style sheen; its taste of gin and bitters goes down like a dry martini. It’s the tug-of-war between familial duty and what she personally aspires to in life. She must fortify herself, and it’s true she has an untenable veneer built up over the years. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs MORE > $29.95 Regularly $39.95 buy now Brief Synopsis Keiko Yashiro, an impoverished young widow, takes a job as a hostess in a dingy bar in Tokyo's Ginza district. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs - Mikio Naruse FILM REVIEW - Duration: 12:34. Sly, resourceful, but trapped, Keiko comes to embody the conflicts and struggles of a woman trying to … She describes life's vicious cycle: acting cheerful around drunks, dressing and living well to convey confidence, needing money for these expenses and for her demanding mother and brother, and knowing she's growing older. Unlock access to all of Film Inquiry`s great articles. Another door has closed in Keiko’s face. When A Woman Ascends The Stairs (Japan 1960, dir. It’s not the kind of exhibition you soon forget. Naruse’s gift here is being able to keep alive surprise and the fresh possibility of hope, even as you know deep down that he’s going to snatch most of that hope away. They wear kimonos, buy perfume, and pay for taxis and apartments they can barely afford, way above their paygrade, just so they can maintain the fantasy for their obliging audience. Mark Kermode @KermodeMovie. Free shipping. There is no relief in this constant barrage of pain, rejection, and heartbreak our heroine is taxed with. Posted on August 26, 2007 by afinpassing [Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki] 1960 – Japan. Despite being a story about women giving companionship to men on their business trips and away from their wives, for the longest time no notion of actual love is created. So they must play the game or live a life like hamsters on a wheel, in a constantly spinning cycle of survival. She is a middle- aged widow who works as a bar hostess (mamasan) in Post-War Ginza nightclubs. He has written extensively on the movies for the Criterion Collection, Film Comment, Cineaste, and the New York Times and is a professor at Columbia University. What's on TV & Streaming What's on TV & Streaming … She's of an age when she must choose: to seek … But in a manner indicative of Japanese culture, Keiko must deal with a nagging mother and a useless brother who are constantly dependent on her for money. We respect her stubbornness and resilience, yes, but what keeps this quintessential woman’s picture from descending to weepy melodrama is the objectivity brought to bear. Release Calendar DVD & Blu-ray Releases Top Rated Movies Most Popular Movies Browse Movies by Genre Top Box Office Showtimes & Tickets Showtimes & Tickets In Theaters Coming Soon Coming Soon Movie News India Movie Spotlight. Keiko or “Mama-san” (Hideko Takamine), as she is known by all, is one of the women living in this world. Sign up to get our cinematic goodness delivered to your inbox every weekend. “Sorry. My last thought is only this. Meanwhile, there’s another side, a lot more disheartening and downright heartbreaking. After the marriage plan with Sekine blows up, she gets drunk and throws herself at Fujisaki. She’s spellbinding, beautiful, and simultaneously breaks our hearts with the depth of her vulnerability. Format: DVD. See Full Cast + Crew for When a Woman Ascends the Stairs Features Load More Features Movie Reviews Presented by Rotten Tomatoes. Follow his frequent musings at Film Inquiry and on his blog 4 Star Films. She comes across at times as self-righteous, at other times as hard. Naruse Mikio) has just about everything I could wish for in a movie – a beautiful heroine presented in a B+W ‘Scope melodrama in which she must make almost impossible decisions about how to gain her independence in patriarchal … When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) External Reviews. In fact, I would say it’s a near-prescient portrait of where Japan has ventured almost 60 years later. when you spend $25 on participating products. A middle-aged bar hostess, constantly in debt, is faced with numerous social constraints and challenges posed to her by her family, customers and friends. When a woman ascends the stairs, she steps into the den of lions. Among many things suicide, loneliness, and helplessness. When A Woman Ascends The Stairs Keiko, 'Mama', is a 30 yr old Geisha with many life pressures and is of an age where she must think about her future. It’s the undercurrent of Tokyo if you wander into the red district or happen to step outside the confines of the beautifully cultivated exterior. When Keiko decides to accept Sekine’s marriage proposal, we cheer her willingness to compromise by accepting this homely but essentially good-hearted man—only to discover he is not what he appears. If Mikio Naruse‘s Floating Clouds is a film about making peace with the war years, then When a Woman Who Ascends The Stairs is a far more forward-thinking endeavor. Become a Member and support film journalism. One old lady comments on how you can still see the old Tokyo, but it’s obvious — even the classy scoring and the generally sleek compositions suggest as much — modern society is upon us in full force. Every cut conveys the solitary partiality of each character’s viewpoint, even the most minor. I cannot speak for others, but When a Woman Ascends The Stairs tears my heart out, especially because I have seen elements of this world first hand, even if only in the periphery. Known as the honorable “Mama”, Keiko has earned the respect and admiration of other bar hostess and customers for her unadulterated beauty. The performance she gives here is yet again so potent with the range and verisimilitude to all but carry the picture. They are not flashy, but they ring true, they appeal to our demanding intelligence, our sense of the rigor of daily life; and, seen in bulk, they draw us into an astonishingly consistent, psychologically resonant universe. Keiko, whom everyone calls Mama, narrates her story: she's a hostess on the Ginza, 30, a widow. Notify Me When Available. A departure of sorts from the usually drab, lower-middle-class, scarcity environments, but the preference for enlightened stoicism over glib redemption is pure Naruse. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, she works with her longtime manager and bill collector (Tatsuya Nakadai), trying to eke by an existence, paying off the creditors they must pay rent to. If it’s a euphemism for something more, I can’t entirely say nor does the film try and define it, choosing instead to exist in this ambiguity. It’s hardly a sustainable life. In a sense, she represents a more traditional Japanese set of values, in contrast to the mod, pecuniary libertinism sprouting up around her. But it would be too simple to see Keiko as the saint in a den of sinners. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. After he died, retrospectives of his work began to tour Europe and America; they excited the enthusiasm of knowledgeable cinephiles and were repeated in periodic cycles; a body of criticism grew around him, and now his films are issued worldwide on DVD. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. It braces her to be the perfect hostess to all, balancing her customers’ entreaties and come-ons with the utmost ease and floating from each conversation with impeccable tact. In some ways mismatched to the job, since she does not like liquor, refuses to sleep around, and has a proud, choosy character, she stands out from the stereotypical bar girl, which is why so many of the male characters find her a challenge and want to seduce her. Expressive lighting touches, like the sudden luminosity of Takamine’s face in the fortune-telling scene, or after she sleeps with Fujisaki, are made more effective by their rarity. Even a regular named Minaboe has started frequenting another place. Still, her entire existence can be summed up by one early shot: presenting the daunting stairs winding up ahead of her toward her livelihood. They still have a fairly insidious grip on the society. After Mother (1952), Late Chrysanthemums (1954), Floating Clouds (1955), and Flowing (1956), he was ready to tackle the newly prosperous, go-getter Japan. When a woman ascends the stairs might be Japanese filmmaker Mikio Naruse's finest hour, a delicate, devastating study of a woman, Keiko (played heartbreakingly by Hideko Takamine), who works as a bar hostess in Tokyo's very modern postwar Ginza district, who entertains businessmen after work. But as Keiko later admits, when she returns to her humble roots, it’s all a meticulously created fabrication. on most orders of $75+ Brand New. X. To start her own bar, she is advised that she will need a patron (i.e., to become some businessman’s mistress); Keiko tries to circumvent this distasteful compromise by attempting to raise the capital through subscription from her wealthiest customers. 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