Silent Naruse: Eclipse From The Criterion Collection
Mikio Naruse (Floating Clouds, When A Woman Ascends The Stairs) was one of the most popular directors in Japan, a crafter of exquisite melodramas, mostly about women confined by their social and domestic circumstances. Though often compared with Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi for his style and treatment of characters, Naruse was a unique artist, making heartrending, brilliantly photographed and edited films about the impossible pursuit of happiness. From the outset of his career, with his silent films of the early thirties, Naruse zeroed in on the lives of the kinds of people - geisha, housewives, waitresses - who would continue to fascinate him for the next three decades. Though he made two dozen silent films, only five remain in existence; these works - poignant, dazzlingly made dramas all - are collected here, newly restored and on DVD for the first time, and featuring optional new scores by noted musicians Robin Holcomb and Wayne Horvitz.
Flunky, Work Hard & No Blood Relation - The first of Naruse's two earliest extant works is an atypical breezy comedy, about a poor insurance salesman trying to provide for his family. The second is a maternal-instinct melodrama about an actress desperate to reclaim the daughter she left to follow her career, who is now cared for by a loving stepmother. Both films are filled with examples of Naruse's early technical experimentation.
Apart From You & Every-Night Dreams - Naruse rose to critical prominence with these two rich, sophisticated dramas about single working mothers. In the graceful Apart From You, an aging geisha is resented by her humiliated teenage son. And in the atmospheric Every-Night Dreams, a dockside bar hostess must contend with the return of her long-gone layabout husband.
Street Without End - Just before Naruse moved into the realm of talking pictures, he fashioned this absorbing character and class study about a carefree waitress who, after a series of dramatic events, ends up in a stifling marriage.