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 ... See full summary »
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
Surely it is time Naruse was discovered in the West
The stairs in question are those of a bar in the red-light district of Tokyo and the woman who ascends them is Mama-San, the bar's chief hostess, but the stairs may just as well be those of a brothel for the girls who work these bars are basically prostitutes, (even in Japan in 1960 you could never be that explicit). Of all Japanese directors Mikio Naruse was the one most concerned with the plight of women in contemporary society and he brought to his tales of women fallen on hard times an almost Sirkian sensibility though even Sirk's melodramas stayed clear of the brothel. This may also be the most 'westernized' of all Naruse's films. We could be in the New Orleans of "Walk on the wild side" and even the credits of this film have a touch of the Saul Bass about them. (If only Dmytryk's film could have been this good). There is a naturalism to Naruse's film that American melodramas lack and it's this naturalism that lifts it out of being mere melodrama and into the realms of tragedy. Fundamentally, Mama-San is a woman who hates the life she has chosen but feels powerless to move on and Hideko Takamine, (from "Floating Clouds"), is superb in the role. Yet here is an actress and a director whose work never really traveled beyond Japan and even today Naruse trails in popular opinion well behind the likes of Ozu and Mizoguchi. Hopefully the release of this film in a DVD box set together with "Floating Clouds" and "Late Chrysanthemums" will rectify
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