8.2/10
3,039
16 user 48 critic

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)

Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 25 June 1963 (USA)
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.

Director:

Mikio Naruse
Reviews

On Disc

at Amazon

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Midareru (1964)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

After a bombing raid destroys the family store and her husband, Reiko rebuilds and runs the shop out of love stopped short by destruction.

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Hideko Takamine, Yûzô Kayama, Mitsukô Kusabue
Ukigumo (1955)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A tragic social drama set in post war Japan and concerns a lonely woman trying to find purpose and stability in a devastated Tokyo.

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Hideko Takamine, Masayuki Mori, Mariko Okada
Meshi (1951)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Michiyo lives in the small place Osaka and is not happy with her marriage, all she does is cook and clean for her husband.

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Ken Uehara, Setsuko Hara, Yukiko Shimazaki
Yama no oto (1954)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

An ingratiating bride develops warm ties to her father-in-law while her cold husband blithely slights her for another woman.

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Setsuko Hara, Sô Yamamura, Ken Uehara
Nagareru (1956)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Otsuta is running the geisha house Tsuta in Tokyo. Her business is heavily in debt. Her daughter Katsuyo doesn't see any future in her mothers trade in the late days of Geisha. But Otsuta ... See full summary »

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Kinuyo Tanaka, Isuzu Yamada, Hideko Takamine
Bangiku (1954)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

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 »

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Haruko Sugimura, Ken Uehara, Sadako Sawamura
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A man falls in love with the widow of a man he killed in a car accident. Eventually she falls in love with him in return.

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Yûzô Kayama, Yôko Tsukasa, Mitsukô Kusabue
Inazuma (1952)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Poor, pathetic mother Ose (Kumeko Urabe) has four children, three daughters and a son, by four different men.

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Hideko Takamine, Mitsuko Miura, Kyôko Kagawa
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Follows a woman's fight and survival amid the vicissitudes of life and the cruelty of the society.

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Stars: Kinuyo Tanaka, Tsukie Matsuura, Ichirô Sugai
Arakure (1957)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A woman marries, gives birth to a stillborn child, and divorces, falls in love with a hotel-keeper, only to find herself subordinated to his drive for success, takes up with a tailor who cannot console himself with her strong personality.

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Hideko Takamine, Ken Uehara, Daisuke Katô
Iwashigumo (1958)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A war widow with a young boy manages a farm with her bossy mother-in-law. When a reporter comes to interview her, the two begin an affair. He turns out to be married and won't leave his ... See full synopsis »

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Chikage Awashima, Michiyo Aratama, Kumi Mizuno
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The personal tales of various prostitutes who occupy a Japanese brothel.

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Stars: Machiko Kyô, Aiko Mimasu, Ayako Wakao
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Hideko Takamine ... Keiko Yashiro
Masayuki Mori ... Nobuhiko Fujisaki
Reiko Dan Reiko Dan ... Junko Inchihashi
Tatsuya Nakadai ... Kenichi Komatsu, the manager
Daisuke Katô Daisuke Katô ... Matsukichi Sekine
Ganjirô Nakamura Ganjirô Nakamura ... Goda
Eitarô Ozawa Eitarô Ozawa ... Minobe
Keiko Awaji Keiko Awaji ... Yuri
Chieko Nakakita Chieko Nakakita ... Tomoko
Jun Tatara Jun Tatara
Yû Fujiki Yû Fujiki
Masao Oda Masao Oda
Ken Mitsuda Ken Mitsuda
Chikako Hosokawa Chikako Hosokawa
Sadako Sawamura Sadako Sawamura
Edit

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 | debt | middle aged | drunk | See All (32) »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Japan

Language:

Japanese

Release Date:

25 June 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs See more »

Filming Locations:

Tokyo, Japan

Company Credits

Production Co:

Toho Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Perspecta Sound encoding) (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Quotes

Keiko Yashiro: [an afternoon in late autumn: Keiko walks through the Ginza district on her way to The Lilac Bar] Bars in the daytime are like women without makeup.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Emotionally Brutal Look at a Bar Hostess' Desultory Life from Another Japanese Film Master
24 July 2007 | by Ed UyeshimaSee all my reviews

Just as Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu seemed destined to be recognized as the troika of classic Japanese cinematic masters, here comes the work of a filmmaker who has been under the radar to Westerners all these years, Mikio Naruse. The Criterion Collection is giving Naruse his due with the release of his provocatively titled 1960 melodrama, a fine piece of work that strikes me as a cross between Ozu's elliptical narrative style and deliberate pacing and Douglas Sirk's sense of Baroque-level dramatic sensibilities.

Sharply written by Ryuzo Kikushima, the net result is a clear-eyed yet humanistic glimpse into the after-hours bar scene in post-WWII Tokyo's Ginza district with the primary focus on Keiko, a hostess to whom colleagues refer affectionately as "Mama". Her existence is a daily struggle as she depends on her companion-seeking businessman clients to finance the bar in which she works, and concurrently, confronts the fear of aging in a highly competitive field, all the while standing on her high moral ground to avoid the unsavory pitfalls of others in her profession. Although she is barely in her thirties, she feels pressured to make an imminent choice between opening her own bar and getting married for security. Even more than Ozu, arguably the most sensitive of Japan's film-making elite, Naruse shows with uncompromising clarity how women are consigned to their subservient roles in a male-dominated society.

As she keeps up appearances as part of not only her job but also as her emotional suit of armor, Keiko faces the temptations of four men in particular, all far from ideal, but each promises some aspect of hope for her to get out of her desultory existence. Meanwhile, she faces the machinations of younger hostesses out to get their share of the money and fulfill their dreams of security. Naruse takes his time in setting up the various character situations in the first half, which makes the film feel a little more plodding than it should be, but the pace and dramatic tension pick up in the second half when Keiko's desperation becomes more palpable. It's fortunate that Naruse cast his longtime leading lady Hideko Takamine in the highly complex role of Keiko, as her multi-layered performance is a model of emotional precision. A beautiful actress with a look of often haunting passivity, she subtly provides the emotional tether among all the vividly rendered characters in her orbit.

The four men are skillfully portrayed by actors familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of classic Japanese cinema - Ganjiro Nakamura ("Floating Weeds") as the aged executive in need of a mistress; Daisuke Katô ("Yojimbo") as the cherubic bachelor who is not what he appears; Tatsuya Nakadai ("Harakiri", "Ran") as the younger bartender/manager who worships Keiko from a distance; and Masayuki Mori ("Rashomon", "Ugetsu") as the married lover unable to leave his family. As intriguing counterpoints to Keiko, Reiko Dan plays the flirtatious Junko with Western-style abandon, and Keiko Awaji makes the ambitious Yuri a tragic, pitiable figure. The film is complemented by a cool, jazz-piano score by Toshirô Mayuzumi, absolutely the right touch for the slightly tawdry urban setting. As with several Criterion releases of classic Japanese cinema (like Ozu's "Tokyo Story" and Nakahira's "Crazed Fruit"), film scholar Donald Richie provides rich commentary on an alternate track in the 2007 DVD. There is also an illuminating 2005 interview with Nakadai on Naruse and the film-making process, as well as the original theatrical trailer. Four insightful essays, including a glowing tribute to Naruse by Takamine, are included in a 38-page booklet accompanying the DVD package.


23 of 25 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 16 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Comedy Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular comedy titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed