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Late Chrysanthemums (1954)
"Bangiku" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  27 November 1985 (USA)
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 496 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 11 critic

What is the life of a Geisha like once her beauty has faded and she has retired? Kin has saved her money, and has become a wealthy money-lender, spending her days cold-heartedly collecting ... See full summary »

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Title: Late Chrysanthemums (1954)

Late Chrysanthemums (1954) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Haruko Sugimura ...
Kin
Sadako Sawamura ...
Nobu
Chikako Hosokawa ...
Tamae
Yûko Mochizuki ...
Tomi
Ken Uehara ...
Tabe
Hiroshi Koizumi ...
Kiyoshi
Ineko Arima ...
Sachiko
Bontarô Miake ...
Seki
Sonosuke Sawamura ...
Sentaro
Daisuke Katô ...
Itaya
Haruna Kaburagi
Yoshiko Tsubouchi
Yaeko Izumo
Tsuruko Mano
Toshiko Nakano
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Storyline

What is the life of a Geisha like once her beauty has faded and she has retired? Kin has saved her money, and has become a wealthy money-lender, spending her days cold-heartedly collecting debts. Even her best friends, Tomi, Nobu, and Tamae, who were her fellow Geisha, are now indebted to her. For all of them, the glamor of their young lives has passed; Tomi and Tamae have children, but their children have disappointed them. Kin has two former lovers who still pursue her; one she wants to see, and the other she doesn't. But even the one she remembers fondly, when he shows up, proves to be a disappointment. Written by George S. Davis <mgeorges@prodigy.net>

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neighbor | rumor | widow

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Drama

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27 November 1985 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bangiku  »

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The Color of Money
15 February 2014 | by (NY) – See all my reviews

Co-adapted by Tanaka Sumie and Ide Toshirô—who together or separately collaborated with director Naruse Mikio on some of his finest films of the fifties and sixties—Late Chrysanthemums brings together three short stories by Hayashi Fumio, one of Naruse's favorite authors. In each of the stories, Hayashi portrayed a middle-aged woman at a crossroads in her life, a theme also explored by Naruse in films such as Ginza Cosmetics, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs and Flowing, which this film echoes in particular.

Naruse and his screenwriters not only merged the individual backgrounds of the women in terms of their work history but also made them former colleagues in order to explore their past and present relationships with one another. And they added a fourth woman (Sawamura Sadako), who conveniently runs a bar where the others often drop by to share their trials and tribulations.

Though Sugimura Haruko's Kin, a moneylender who is by far the most financially stable of these former geishas, occupies the center of the film, ample screen-time is devoted to Hosokawa Chikako's Tamae, a physically frail woman who sometimes works at a love hotel, and Mochizuki Yûko's Tomi, a janitor with a gambling habit. The most pathetic of the women, she's more or less the film's only source of comic relief. Both Tamae and Tomi have an adult child who further adds to their frustrations. Though at times a point of envy for the childless Kin, they help prove her theory that children eventually abandon you.

The various stories and relationships could have compromised the effectiveness of the film by constantly shifting its focal point; instead, they enrich it by expanding its scope to the larger social reality that surrounds the women. Credit certainly goes to Naruse and his writers and actors for revealing much about the characters and the world around them with as little as possible. Of the four women, only Kin has truly kept up with the times—she even dabbles in the real estate market to take advantage of a rebuilding postwar Tokyo. On the other hand, Tamae and Tomi are often busy reminiscing about the old days and, despite being part of the water trade in the past, or perhaps due to it, are unable to deal with the mores and values their children possess.

Most filmmakers would have turned Kin into a cold and affectless hag who is morally and spiritually regenerated during the process of the film. Though Kin often projects a tough outer appearance and is extremely guarded about her life, we're allowed to get a sense of her loneliness and what may have caused her to be this way. And while she is generally accused by her friends, her regular customers, for being far too stingy, she happens the reason why they're able to live without paying rent or interest for long periods of time. Kin does her best to collect, though. The only person who's able to fluster her is Tomi's daughter (Arima Ineko), who for a brief moment makes her wonder about the way she is. Even her deaf-mute maid is surprised by her excitement upon learning that a former paramour is coming to see her. But it does not take her long to come to the conclusion that her money maybe both a blessing and a curse. The film's lone flaw is Naruse's sudden and unnecessary dependence on Kin's voice-over narration late in the proceedings.

Like Ford's, Naruse's oeuvre also contains a few films in which his stock company actors are seen in leading roles. Sugimura, who is best known in the West for her busybody supporting parts in Ozu's Late Spring and Tokyo Story, could not have been more perfect for this character, and she certainly rises to the occasion. Ditto Mochizuki, who in fact dealt with something similar a year earlier in Kinoshia Keisuke's remarkable A Japanese Tragedy, a film that lives up to its title. But Late Chrysanthemums is neither as bleak as the Kinoshita film nor is it is melodramatic or nihilistic. The kind of pointed realism if offers through its measured accumulation of routine events and behavioral insights is practically impossible to categorize. And this is true of the majority of Naruse's work. What's also there is his belief that much of our lives and relationships are based around monetary concerns.


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