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When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) More at IMDbPro »Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki (original title)

9 items from 2011

A Journey Through the Eclipse Series: Seijun Suzuki’s Take Aim At The Police Van

16 August 2011 7:07 PM, PDT | CriterionCast | See recent CriterionCast news »

As Ryan mentioned in his excellent summary of recent Criterion-related blogging activity, I’ve spent considerable time over the past couple months watching and learning about the films of Mikio Naruse. Last week, on my Criterion Reflections blog, I summarized those impressions in my review of Naruse’s 1960 masterpiece When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. One thing I didn’t mention there that I discovered though was that Naruse’s films, aimed primarily at a female audience, were typically shown as the first feature on a double-bill, paired with another film intended to be mainly of interest to men in the interest of maximizing attendance at the theater. Though I doubt that Naruse films were ever shown in conjunction with any of the titles included in Eclipse Series 17: Nikkatsu Noir (different studios, mainly), I got my own version of that melodrama/action flick combo when 1960′s Take Aim At The Police Van »

- David Blakeslee

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Blogging Through The Collection: This Week In Criterion Blogs

14 August 2011 9:25 PM, PDT | CriterionCast | See recent CriterionCast news »

When I came up with the idea to start aggregating the various Criterion Collection related blogs that I read on a somewhat regular basis into a weekly column, I had grand plans to set up reminders for myself, bookmark posts into folders, and produce a compelling weekly blog post for all of you. Unfortunately, the birth of my daughter, and all of the other responsibilities of my life have managed to position themselves between me and that goal. I thought maybe if I switched to a monthly format, that would make things easier, but in reality it just gave me less of an excuse to work on the post. I’ve decided to reboot the column and produce it on a weekly basis. We’ll see if I can keep it going this time. As much as I pretend to be organized and productive, I am really a lazy, lazy guy. »

- Ryan Gallagher

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A Journey Through The Eclipse Series: Aki Kaurismaki’s The Match Factory Girl

8 August 2011 12:00 PM, PDT | CriterionCast | See recent CriterionCast news »

Though he hasn’t quite risen to “blaring headlines” level, Aki Kaurismaki’s name has been generating something louder than a low rumble in terms of buzz over the past few weeks. As our intrepid news reporter Josh Brunsting noted recently, the Finnish auteur’s newest film Le Havre, fresh off its debut at Cannes, was picked up by Janus Films for Us distribution a short while ago. And Criterion announced last month that Kaurismaki’s Leningrad Cowboys films are slated for an October release as the latest addition to the Eclipse Series – a development that caught me and many others by surprise, but one of the most enjoyable sort. Given all that Kaursimaki zeitgeist, it seems only natural for me to wind up my coverage of Eclipse Series 12: Aki Kaurismaki’s Proletariat Trilogy with my third review from the set, The Match Factory Girl. (Here are the links to the first two, »

- David Blakeslee

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A Journey Through the Eclipse Series: Mikio Naruse’s Every-Night Dreams

1 August 2011 12:00 PM, PDT | CriterionCast | See recent CriterionCast news »

As some of you may know, my personal blog, Criterion Reflections, serves as my on-going journal (over 2 1/2 years now) of watching all the Criterion Collection films in their order of chronological release, beginning with 1921′s Nanook of the North. This past week marked a milestone of sorts as I finally worked my way through the 1950s and just posted my first review from 1060, of Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face. Next in my queue is a late-career masterwork by Mikio Naruse that was for several years the only title from his long career available legally available on DVD in the USA, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. Criterion remedied that situation earlier this year with the release of Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse, compiling the director’s five extant silent films in one handy box.

In recent weeks, they’ve done us all a service by importing a few »

- David Blakeslee

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Notebook Roundtable: Talking Silent Naruse

30 May 2011 6:17 AM, PDT | MUBI | See recent MUBI news »

Above: Street without End.  Photo courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

In March the Criterion Collection released a quiet salvo of intervention into the sad state of home video distribution in the U.S. of films by Japanese studio master Mikio Naruse.  After just a solitary release of the filmmaker (1960's masterpiece, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, also put out by Criterion) comes an Eclipse-label boxset of early 30s silent films by the director: Flunky, Work Hard! (1931), No Blood Relation (1932), Apart from You (1933), Every-Night Dreams (1933), and Street without End (1934).  The set, Silent Naruse, instantly dramatically multiplies the number of titles available to American audiences—though sadly, as Dave Kehr recently implied in his review of the set for the New York Times, it isn't exactly a set of canonical masterpieces bound to invigorate and excite shocked discovery of a foreign master.

But then again, Naruse may be one of the »

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Five Japanese Divas

4 April 2011 5:16 AM, PDT | MUBI | See recent MUBI news »

Nick Pinkerton in the Voice on Five Japanese Divas, running from tomorrow through April 21: "Rarefied Ozu, bold Kurosawa, saturnine Naruse, magisterial Mizoguchi. The Great Men are here, and then some, but Film Forum's 23-feature series foregrounds other names in the credits: Yamada, Kyo, Tanaka, Hara, Takamine — the women of Japanese cinema's ridiculously fecund postwar Golden Age, when on-screen drama addressed an upended social reality for a national audience that suddenly included many females cashing their first paychecks."

Time Out New York's David Fear offers a "quick primer" on Setsuko Hara ("The Girl Next Door"), Machiko Kyô ("The Chameleon"), Hideko Takamine ("The Icon"), Kinuyo Tanaka ("The Martyr") and Isuzu Yamada ("The Technician").

"Considered a bold feminist statement for 1936 Japan as well as a turning point in his own career, Kenji Mizoguchi's Sisters of the Gion is a perfect showcase for his early muse, Isuzu Yamada," finds Joe Bendel.

"Of »

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A Journey Through the Eclipse Series: Mikio Naruse’s Flunky, Work Hard

28 March 2011 8:03 PM, PDT | CriterionCast | See recent CriterionCast news »

Early 2007 saw the introduction of both the Eclipse line of DVDs (with the first release, Early Bergman) and the work of Mikio Naruse (with his late-career masterpiece, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs) into the Criterion Collection. Four years later these two threads have intertwined with last week’s release of Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse. It’s another amazing set that perfectly exemplify what makes the Eclipse Series such a distinctive and trustworthy source of new discovery for the adventurous cinephile. These exquisitely rare and fascinating films have been captured on DVD for the first time ever, and offer another angle in which fans of Japanese cinema can observe the development of one of that nation’s most celebrated, but also neglected, film making talents. Mikio Naruse hearkens from the same Golden Age of Japanese film as Yasjiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi, though his work has been much more difficult to find, »

- David Blakeslee

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Podcast: Dave Kehr, Critic!

23 March 2011 6:23 AM, PDT | MUBI | See recent MUBI news »

Two days ago, David Phelps and I had the privilege to sit down and talk to Dave Kehr, who we consider to be one of America's best film critics.  Luckily for us all, Kehr is still writing criticism; he currently writes regularly for the New York Times and casually hosts a small and impassioned film discussion community on his website,  He is now publishing a wonderful book of his criticism from the 1970s and 1980s in a collection called "When Movies Mattered: Reviews from a Transformative Decade", which includes terrific pieces on City of Pirates, Raoul Walsh (re-printed here), Risky Business, Carl Th. Dreyer, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, and many more.  It is essential reading: crisp, clear prose that leads the reader through a film or a filmmaker's work, characterizing and encapsulating, providing evidence simply, accurately, and expressively.  On the occasion of the book's publication, the »

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Hideko Takemine obituary

14 January 2011 4:03 PM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Japanese actor whose forte was courageous, independent, strong-willed heroines

Although Japan had been making films since the beginnings of cinema, Japanese films remained virtually unknown in the west for more than half a century. Shamefully, it has taken almost as long again to recognise the greatness of the director Mikio Naruse, and consequently the remarkable talents of Hideko Takemine, his leading lady in more than a dozen films, who has died of lung cancer aged 86.

In the same way as Kinuyo Tanaka became associated with the films of Kenji Mizoguchi, and Setsuko Hara with those of Yasujiro Ozu, Takemine embodied Naruse's heroines – courageous, independent, strong-willed, conscientious women, faced with misfortune. Naruse once remarked about his female characters: "If they try to move forward even a little, they quickly hit a wall." The director Akira Kurosawa's description of Naruse's films as "looking calm and ordinary at first glance but which »

- Ronald Bergan

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