This book is intended as a reference work for film lovers who are navigating Mikio Naruse’s long and long-inaccessible career. To the best of my knowledge, the only Naruse films omitted from this survey are 1941’s SHANGHAI MOON, which exists in partial form and does not circulate, and those that are not known to exist. The separately released films LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE PART I and LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE PART II are discussed within a single entry; all other extant Naruse films have their own entry.
The entries are based on blurbs that were written between 2005, when a traveling Naruse retrospective played New York, and 2013, after fan subtitling had made all extant Naruse films accessible to English speakers. These blurbs first appeared on the Google group NaruseRetro, and have been extensively revised for inclusion here. Among the materials used to expand the current versions is a conversation about silent Naruse with Danny Kasman and David Phelps that was published at MUBI.com.
This collection cannot hope to supersede what is currently the only book-length English language study of Naruse’s career, Catherine Russell’s The Cinema of Naruse Mikio: Women and Japanese Modernity, an infinitely richer resource for historical and industrial context, biographical information, and the story content of individual films. I did not completely neglect contextual concerns or plot description, but my focus is on the aesthetic strategies within individual films and on the connections among them.
I was unable to avoid plot spoilers, so read with caution.
Many thanks to Chizuru Usui for help in researching Naruse’s career, to Youni Lo and Erica Yun-I Lin for their translations, and to my Naruse comrades over the decades for materials and discussion: Glynford Hatfield, Steve Russell, Michael Kerpan, Blake Lucas, Keith Uhlich, Dan Callahan, Danny Kasman, Jaime Christley, and many others.