31 March 2011 | boblipton
Not What You'd Expect from Naruse
This, the earliest surviving Naruse picture, is not the sort of woman's picture he is best remembered for directing in the 1950s and 1960s, but a comedy about a timid insurance agent, henpecked at home, who can't seem to get ahead, even with his children watching. Thematically it is a great deal like Ozu's early comedies, but while Ozu's attitudes and rhythms are modern and American in this period, like a Japanese Leo McCarey, Naruse's choices seem much more foreign to this modern American viewer: a talent of Japanese, rather than world cinema. Still, the worries are universal in a modern age, of the wage slave who makes himself ridiculous in order to keep his head above water, and the particularly Japanese take on the themes is refreshing. Ozu is outraged at injustice. Naruse's hero endures.
There is a melancholy air to the cinematography as images and the detritus of a still-industrializing Japan are seen about. The children play around and are shot through unassembled sewer pipes, trains rattle by in the background and a toy plane is a plot point. The hard-working, loyal flunky is in danger of being lost, and only the occasional, graceful tracking shot of him walking with his boy offers any real consolation.