This is a collection of Naruse's five surviving silent films. At that time, he was with the Shochiku studio which was famous for films of ordinary people's everyday drama, and their president Kido stated that they didn't need the second Ozu, referring Naruse.
*Flunky, Work Hard
Being from a Dad's perspective instead of a boy, this film reminds me of Ozu's "I was born, but." and interesting & odd to see Naruse's film without female leading role.
*No Blood Relation
This melodrama was based on a newspaper serial from 1912, which have been filmed staggering 8 times, and performed on stages for numerous times as well, obviously one of the Japan's favorite stories at that time, probably because the loyalty that the young girl exhibited to her step mother who had raised her was very appealing to the audience. For this filming in 1932, which was 7th of it, Naruse was allowed to use Top Stars like gorgeous Yoshiko Okada and very handsome Jouji Oka. The story goes like a mother who abandoned her newborn baby daughter went to Hollywood to be a star, came back as a rich & famous to reclaim her daughter. Nope, this is obviously not the material for Naruse. He excelled on more realistic stories of women who was exploited by men & society. However, Naruse did his best to make the characters believable, and especially Yoshiko Okada did a wonderful job. Also he was not shy away from the experimental techniques.
*Apart from you
The most important film of this Naruse's period, at least among the surviving films of his. This is a story of a young Geisha, who was forced to be in that business because of her lazy father, tried to survive through and sacrificed herself for her younger sister at the end. Yet she did not lament over her misfortune and observed the world surrounding her with dry eyes. This is the proto type character that Naruse tried to portrait over & over again with the late great Hideko Takamine and other actresses in his great '50s films. Compared to them, this one got a full of youthful lyricism, which is very refreshing to see. Also one of his films' most important elements, detailed description of small people's everyday lives was already so evident. Sumiko Mizukubo, a young actress who played the young geisha so vividly here worked with Naruse for the other film called "Chocolate Girl", which unfortunately did not survive.
Because of the success of the prior film, Naruse was allowed to work with then THE SUPERSTAR of Shochiku, Sumiko Kurishima. Shochiku was known to have a very strict hierarchy system, and Kurishima was at a much higher placement than Naruse was at. The story itself was a very melodrama, a woman worked as a bar hostess to support her young son, and her drifting husband came back, but could not find any job, then their son fell ill and out of desperation, he committed a suicide after stealing a large sum of money. Though this film got the Hollywood influenced style, such as a police chase, which was not Naruse-like, the female protagonist showed the remarkable instinct of survival. In many of Naruse's films, women almost obsessively tried to protect their pride as if they believe religiously that was the most important thing for their survival. And also this protagonist did not hesitate to accuse her man for being so weak, for being not strong enough to save his woman & child. Despite of the melodramaish story line, this mother showed that she was a full blown Naruse woman, and also Kurishima showed what it took for her to be a superstar of that time. She was great!
*Street without end
Again Naruse was forced to make a adaptation from a newspaper serial, which everybody else rejected. He did that because Shochiku promised to let him make whatever he liked to do after this project. The story goes like a young woman who worked as a waitress at a cafe, met a handsome rich young man and got married with him. However, her mother-in-law and sister-in-law hated and mistreated her because of her background. Eventually she left the bourgeois family only to return to her husband dying bed and to tell his mother and sister what was on her mind. Despite of this forced dismal material, like "No Blood Relation", it is evident that Naruse tried to make it like his own as much as possible with brilliant details and well constructed structure.
Naruse left Shochiku for Toho right after this film because they did not keep their words.
To be honest, out of these five films, only two of them, "Apart from You" & "Every-Night Dreams" deserve to be called truly great. However, you can see the development of Naruse's skill as a director watching through these films, and it is such delight to see Shochiku's actors that he shared with other Shochiku directors like Ozu and Shimizu such as Mitsuko Yoshikawa, Yukiko Inoue, Choko Iida, Takeshi Sakamoto, Shin Himori, Tokkan Kozo and especially Chishu Ryu who got a small part in "Street without End" but also was in "No Blood Relation" & "Every Night Dream" as an extra, he was a policeman for both of them.
Over all, this is definitely a worthy set to own.
I really hope this release will be soon followed by the release of his so many other masterpieces like "Lightening""Repast""Floating Clouds""Flowing""Sound of Mountain""Mother""Ginza Cosmetic""Older Brother & Younger Sister""Late Chrysanthemums""Yearning" & "Scattered Clouds."