I love cinema, but I don't know nearly as much about it as I would like to. All the same, I like to learn, and I often listen to the advice of those that know more. That is how I ended up watching "When a woman ascends the stairs" (1959), by Mikio Naruse.
According to Ruben, a coworker who also happens to know a lot about cinema, Naruse (1905-1969) is, after Kurosawa, Mizoguchi and Ozu, "the 4th and often forgotten great Japanese director". Truth to be told, I hadn't even heard Naruse's name before Ruben told me that, but when he offered to lend me this dvd, I didn't hesitate. After all, I didn't have too much to lose, at most two hours of my time.
I am quite happy I seized the opportunity to watch this film. It is poignant, and far from fast-paced, but manages to tell a story in such a way that makes you care, and think. The main character is Keiko (Hideko Takamine), a virtuous widow that works as a hostess in Tokyo, supervising a bar and attracting customers thanks to her beauty and grace. Even though Keiko is still young, she realises that times goes by and she is getting old, something that brings her face to face with choices regarding her future. Should she marry, buy a bar of her own, or leave things the way they are? And does she really have any choice?
All in all, I think this is a movie well-worth seeing, that will please those that enjoy the kind of film that leads you to identify with the characters, even if you don't really have a lot in common with them. Naruse pays attention to details, and weaves an atmosphere that ends up making the illusion of cinema almost real. For all that, I find it easy to recommend "When a woman ascends the stairs"... Thanks, Ruben :)