When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (The Criterion Collection)
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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 :)
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.
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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