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This is the story of Mama, a.k.a. Keiko, a middle-aged bar hostess who must choose to either get married or buy a bar of her own. Her family hounds her for money, her customers for her attention, and she is continually in debt. The life of a bar hostess is examined as well as the way in which the system traps and sometimes kills those in it. Written by
This film reminded me most of Italian neo-realist films like "Umberto D" and particularly, "Nights of Cabiria," because it focuses on the struggles of average people who are perhaps on the fringes, the subject being a bar hostess. While Keiko's not exactly a prostitute, she is paid to entertain men, a lucrative but soulless career.
As she comes to grips with aging, Keiko struggles to decide between striking out on her own or giving up the business completely. While Fate naturally deals her some ups and downs, I found it to be ultimately quite a cynical story, lacking the hope of "Cabiria." Perhaps that makes it truer to life.
Regardless, there are some outstanding performances by Hideko Takamine and Tatsuya Nakadai. This is the first Naruse film I've seen, and look forward to watching more of his films. Unfortunately, they are quite difficult to get your hands on.
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