17 February 2018 | nmegahey
In the shadow of Sirk
Despite some recent interest in his works in the west, Mikio Naruse has still largely remained in the shadow of his contemporary Yasujiro Ozu, a comparison that has hasn't served Naruse well. Despite some superficial genre similarities however, a wider look at Naruse's work - few of the director's 89 films have been seen outside Japan - shows that the comparison really isn't even merited. Shot in Tohoscope and in colour, Naruse's gorgeous melodrama Scattered Clouds is closer to Douglas Sirk than Ozu, but it's also possible to consider the film's style and subject matter as being influential on other Asian filmmakers like Wong Kar-Wai (In the Mood For Love) and the Korean master of romantic melodrama Hur Jin-Ho (April Snow). The pace is more sedate, but considering the nature of the encounter here, the passions are necessarily of the slow-burn kind.
It takes that long for Yumiko's feelings to change towards the man who was responsible for her husband's death in a car accident. Shiro, a driver for an escort/entertainments company, has been cleared of any wrongdoing, but can't help but feel a sense of guilt for what has happened, particularly when Yumiko is subsequently disinherited from her husband's family protection. It's this sense of guilt on both sides, for different reasons that draws the couple together, and at the same time proves to be an impossible impediment to the love that they eventually feel for each other.
Strikingly shot, delicately understated, with the occasional abstract poetic cutaway to sustain mood and tension, the pacing and balancing of emotions is masterful as the film builds towards a quietly devastating conclusion.