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When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (The Criterion Collection)

Hideko Takamine , Tatsuya Nakadai , Mikio Naruse    Unrated   DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Product Description

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. Sly, resourceful, but trapped, Keiko comes to embody the conflicts and struggles of a woman trying to establish her independence in a male-dominated society. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs shows the largely unsung yet widely beloved master Naruse at his most socially exacting and profoundly emotional.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
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 :)

Belen Alcat
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an unheralded masterpiece Dec 27 2000
Format:VHS Tape
one of mikio naruse's last masterpieces was 1960's "when a woman ascends the stairs" - it is also one of only two of the great director's films currently available in any video format in the u.s. but wow, what an introduction it is! this seemingly modest film about a woman on the edge of a precipice, winding her way through dismal back alleys and cheap bars in search of an out is one of the great character pieces in world cinema. crisply shot in black and white widescreen (which is admirably reproduced in this edition), this beautifully directed and acted film is an absolute must for anyone interested in movies. the sadness lies in the knowledge that this kind of film is not made anymore; there's no one talented enough to pull it off nearly as well. class and subtlety are a rare commodity and this film has just the right amount of both. it's perfect, one of the greatest films of all time, one i come back to again and again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Maintaining dignity amid adversity Jan. 26 2003
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Like fellow film director Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse often portrayed the plight of women in Japanese society. This movie is about a senior hostess at a Ginza bar who tries to gracefully fend off the unwanted advances of customers. Everyone seems to want her for one reason or another; either they want her body, or in the case of her family, they want her money. Her life is one emotional betrayal after another. But through it all, she tries to maintain her dignity. And she manages to persevere. In the movie, there is the recurring image of her ascending the stairs to the bar where she works. "After it gets dark," she says, "I have to climb the stairs, and that's what I hate. But once I'm up, I can take whatever happens."
This is a movie about courage and the triumph of the human spirit amid adversity. Hideko Takamine, who plays the bar hostess, is one of Japan's greatest actresses. Sadly, only a handful of her movies have made it to America. She gives one of her best performances in this film.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Unjustly Neglected Master June 18 2000
Format:VHS Tape
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is not one of Mikio Naruse's best films, but it is quite good enough to show anyone unfamiliar with his work what a sensitive and uncompromising filmmaker he is. Just as Ozu devoted most of his work to the disintegration of the Japanese family, Naruse concentrated almost invariably on the lives of women in Japanese society. His films are often sad and his 'endings' are somewhat less than uplifting, but when you watch, in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, his heroine (played beautifully by Hideko Takamine) betrayed by the men she turns to for help and/or salvation, it becomes clear that Naruse was a great director - not as versatile as Mizoguchi, but unjustly neglected.
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0 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointed Jan. 9 2003
Format:VHS Tape
This movie is slow at best and is done at a junior high school drama level.How it ever got A GOOD review i'll never know.
There is barely enough story to make a story, let alone a movie.
I will certainly be more selective of my foreign films in the future........
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