When a Woman Ascends the Stairs | Chicago Reader

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

A 1960 film by Mikio Naruse, perhaps the greatest Japanese director as yet unknown to American audiences. Where most directors begin with an anonymous style, Naruse started out as a strong individualist (Wife! Be Like a Rose!) and gradually pared his work down to the sublime blankness of his late films, of which this is one. It's a melodrama of extreme emotional violence—about a woman (Hideko Takamine) who runs a bar in Tokyo's Ginza district and the seemingly endless series of betrayals that befall her—but Naruse treats it with such evenness that it becomes microscopically subtle: its deepest pain is conveyed by lack of expression on the actor's face. With Masayuki Mori (Ugetsu) and Tatsuya Nakadai (Kagemusha). In Japanese with subtitles.

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