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When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)
"Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  25 June 1963 (USA)
8.2
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 1,999 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 38 critic

A middle-aged bar hostess, constantly in debt, is faced with numerous social constraints and challenges posed to her by her family, customers and friends.

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Title: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Keiko Yashiro
...
Nobuhiko Fujisaki
Reiko Dan ...
Junko Inchihashi
...
Kenichi Komatsu, the manager
Daisuke Katô ...
Matsukichi Sekine
Ganjirô Nakamura ...
Goda
Eitarô Ozawa ...
Minobe
Keiko Awaji ...
Yuri
Jun Tatara
Yû Fujiki
Masao Oda
Ken Mitsuda
Chikako Hosokawa
Sadako Sawamura
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Toshiko Higuchi
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Storyline

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 PastaQueen

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

bar | money | bar hostess | widow | ginza | See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

25 June 1963 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs  »

Filming Locations:


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Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Perspecta Sound encoding) (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

 
A great filmmaker in search of a plot
23 July 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Compared to Ozu or Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse's films are much lighter in tone, with more humour, and less of the overwhelming sense of pain and tragedy. Sometimes this works really well, offering stories that are emotionally involving but not morbidly extreme, but in this film I think it results in a film that's shapeless and drifts past the viewer without really going anywhere in particular.

The performances are excellent; of course Hideko Takamine is wonderful in the leading role running a hostess bar, but Reiko Dan is great fun as a young, flirty, ambitious hostess, and Tatsuya Nakadai as the loyal young bar manager is like a hero of the French New Wave, quiet, cool, and intense. Keiko's customers at the bar are to an extent caricatures, but are nicely drawn.

The film offers a full and fair-minded account of the world of hostess bars, with Naruse's usual interest in financial matters and the minutiae of life. But despite the occasional sad event, the cumulative impression is not of a woman in a desperately tragic situation, but more a case of just one damn thing after another. It lurches from moments of high drama to silliness to tragedy to the mundane, failing to achieve a consistent attitude or tone.

There are perhaps too many characters, so that while some relationships are clear and powerful, others pass by with little emotional effect. Unlike in Iwashigumo (Summer Clouds) the main character of this film isn't heroic, isn't keeping up any tradition, and doesn't have any particular claim on our affections. Her defence about needing a fancy lifestyle and expensive apartment for her job, and her attitude to her family, don't seem likely to endear her to the viewer either.

Overall, it feels like a set of great talents wandering around in an inadequate storyline. It's not enough to present the facts; a great film needs to use them to show you something more general about life. And something more profound than, "Well, every job has its problems."


5 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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