Mikio Naruse Vol. 1


Repast / Meshi (1951)       

Sound of the Mountain / Yama No Oto (1954)

Flowing / Nagareru (1956)


Titles

 


 

Repast / Meshi (1951)

Director: Mikio Naruse

Stars: Ken Uehara, Setsuko Hara, Yukiko Shimazaki, Yko Sugi and Akiko Kazami

Theatrical Release Date: 1951 - Tokyo

In many of his most successful films, Naruse depicted common people, living their lives. With Repast the director set his characters to the task of navigating their way amidst a pungent atmosphere of fading love. Set shortly after World War II, Repast is about a struggling marriage between salaryman Hatsunosuke (Ken Uehara) and his wife Michiyo (Setsuko Hara). It focuses on the emotional crisis of the bored housewife. The tedium of her domestic life – consumed by repetitive tasks such as cooking and cleaning – is brought into focus by a visit from Hatsunosuke’s niece, Satoko (Yukiko Shimazaki). Satoko’s arrival, and the amount of attention Hatsunosuke devotes to her charms, leads to further unhappiness for Michiyo, who is forced to confront her future. In the hands of master director Naruse, this adaptation of an unfinished novel by Fumiko Hayashi offers a fascinating exploration of married life, from the habitual routine of everyday existence to the hope for a better tomorrow that may or may not keep such relationships alive.

 

Sound of the Mountain / Yama No Oto (1954)

Director: Mikio Naruse

Stars: Setsuko Hara, S Yamamura, Ken Uehara, Yko Sugi, Tanizaki Hideko and Teruko Nagaoka 

Theatrical Release Date: January 15th, 1954

Adapted from a novel by Yasunari Kawabata, the first Japanese author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Sound of the Mountain typifies Naruse’s preferred genre of shomin-geki (films about the daily lives of ordinary people). Set in the ancient seaside town of Kamakura, Kawabata’s home, Sound of the Mountain depicts the increasingly close relationship between a childless young woman, Kikuko (Setsuko Hara), and her father-in-law, Shingo (So Yamamura), to whom she turns as her own marriage, to the neglectful and philandering Shuichi (Ken Uehara), disintegrates. A domestic drama of rare existential insight and emotional subtlety, Sound of the Mountain draws on the concerns of Naruse’s earlier marriage films, including Repast (even the pairing of stars Hara and Uehara is reprised), to offer a profoundly moving account of the complex relationship that develops between an older man and a younger woman.

 

Flowing / Nagareru (1956)

Director: Mikio Naruse

Stars: Kinuyo Tanaka, Isuzu Yamada, Hideko Takamine, Mariko Okada and Haruko Sugimura  

Theatrical Release Date: November 20th, 1956

Directed in 1956, the year that prostitution was outlawed in Japan, Flowing explores the inner workings of a changing world, as traditional geishas faced the impending decline of their hidden way of life and the looming spectre of prostitution. It depicts the story of a widow, Rika (Kinuyo Tanaka), who is forced to work for a living and becomes a maid in a struggling Tokyo geisha house where its proud mistress (Isuzu Yamada) tries to save the house from becoming either a restaurant or a brothel. It is through Rika that we are introduced to the various geishas, who drink and fight, worry over the lack of clients, and attempt to stave off imminent extinction. Based on a book by Koda Aya, Flowing is a showcase for both Naruse’s powers of empathy, and his natural talent in constructing complex female characters on-screen. The result is one of the most innovative and revealing of all geisha films.

Posters

Theatrical Releases: Various from 1951 - 1956

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spines # 35-37 - Region 2 - NTSC
Time: 1:37:06 + 1:34:48 + 1:56:48
Bitrate: Repast
Bitrate: Sound of the Mountain
Bitrate: Flowing
Audio Japanese (original mono) 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka - Masters of Cinema

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33 

Edition Details:

• Full Length Audio Commentary on SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN by Kent Jones and Phillip Lopate

• Audio Discussions on REPAST and FLOWING.
• 184-Page Booklet containing essays, director biography, and detailed discussion of each film

DVD Release Date: December 4th, 2006
3 transparent Keep Cases inside a cardboard box with book
Chapters:
16, 16, 18 (respectively)

 

 

Comments:

This box set represents the first DVD release of any Mikio Naruse films in the English-speaking world and prefigures more Naruse releases by the British Film Institute (UK) and the Criterion Collection (USA) throughout 2007. Mikio Naruse demands a certain deserved reverence with film fans. His non-judgmental cinema creates a flirtation utilizing an unsentimental balance between compassion and sensitivity, steeped in subtly deep melodrama but frequently with an overall bleak and pessimistic outlook. My own personal initial exposure to Naruse came from a VHS of his 1960 film When a Woman Ascends the Stairs and it remains the only 'tape' review on DVDBeaver (HERE). This is Masters of Cinema's last release before Christmas and it truly is akin to a 'present' for all film fans.

NOTE: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is coming out on Criterion DVD in February HERE.

Although the 3 main features of this boxset are housed in individual (transparent) keep cases - see images above and below - they are not sold separately at this time and can only be obtained in MoC's Mikio Naruse, Vol. 1 Boxset. They have been progressively transferred in the NTSC standard, coded for Region 2 and have optional English subtitles.

Image: Firstly, where so many other companies would compromise the available transfer sources and detrimentally alter to suit marketability - I am so proud of Masters of Cinema that they do not succumb to this practice. I am referring to the NTSC standard in which the discs are transferred - which was obviously the only available source that MoC had access to. It wasn't cheaply manipulated for PAL-locked audiences where, perhaps, they might find stronger sales... but also destroy the integrity of the image (and audio). This commitment to art is virtually unheard of today. Bravo - you guys remain my heroes!

The overall image quality is consistent in all three film-to-DVD transfers. There is some minor contrast flickering and very minimal damage (light scratches) with Flowing tending to show the most at the very beginning of the presentation. I didn't know what to expect with this boxset but I am honestly very pleased with the outcome. It has far exceeded my expectations. The screen captures give a fair representation. These films look very acceptable folks. I feel honored to view Naruse' cinema looking this good. It borders on miraculous.  

Audio - Decent with very little audible hiss and overall dialogue remains consistent and clear. There may have been minor instances of sync issues but one cannot be sure this is not inherent in the original film. It is expected that there are some dynamic weakness considering it is mono and the age/condition of the films but it is easily acceptable enough for standard viewing. Comparatively speaking the audio may be on a par with the video quality.

All editions has optional subtitles in English - white font with a black border. There are no untoward gaps or grammar/spelling flaws that I noted.

Extras - There is an excellent optional feature length audio commentary on Sound of the Mountain by Kent Jones and Phillip Lopate. It is very good - I enjoy Kent Jones (listen to his excellent commentary on the NY'er edition of Bresson's L'argent) and he and Lopate seem to work well together. Perhaps a little soft spoken the pair still impart some valuable and insightful knowledge regarding Naruse and Sound of the Mountain. On Repast and Flowing there are 'Audio Discussions' which are akin to segmented commentaries (14 minutes worth for Repast and 8.5 for Flowing). There is also a beautiful large-type booklet (184 pages) that houses essays, a director biography, and a detailed discussion of each film. Contributors include Catherine Russell, Audie Bock, Philip Lopate etc. with 60+ black and white photos. It's a gem.

In conclusion, MoC states 'We hope to return to Naruse soon for our NARUSE: VOLUME 2 box set towards the end of 2007.' We will patiently wait as we are aware of the rewarding cinema to come. Thank you MoC! This is the best Christmas present I could have hoped for! I was overwhelmed by all three films - Setsuko Hara overload! This is one of the best releases of 2006 - no question.    

Gary W. Tooze

 


 

Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

Repast / Meshi (1951)

Director: Mikio Naruse

Stars: Ken Uehara, Setsuko Hara, Yukiko Shimazaki, Yko Sugi and Akiko Kazami

 

 

DVD Menus


 

Screen Captures

 

 

 

 

 


Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

Sound of the Mountain / Yama No Oto (1954)

Director: Mikio Naruse

Stars: Setsuko Hara, S Yamamura, Ken Uehara, Yko Sugi, Tanizaki Hideko and Teruko Nagaoka

 

 

DVD Menus


 

Screen Captures

 

 

 

 

 

 


Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

Flowing / Nagareru (1956)

Director: Mikio Naruse

Stars: Kinuyo Tanaka, Isuzu Yamada, Hideko Takamine, Mariko Okada and Haruko Sugimura  

 

 

DVD Menus


 

Screen Captures

 

 

 

 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

Distribution Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spines # 35-37 - Region 2 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

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