Naruse Mikio (1905-1969), along with Ozu Yasujirō, Kurosawa Akira, and Mizoguchi Kenji, was one of the great directors working in Japanese cinema, though he is less known in the United States than these peers. Born into straightened circumstances, Naruse remained focused on the plight of the disadvantaged in modern Japanese society, with a particular concern for the challenges faced by women in a patriarchal society. Rather than rendering them helpless victims, Naruse created some of the most complex and resilient female characters found in modern Japanese film.
Even as we focus on the director of these films, we will also be examining the performances of the major actors who appeared in them, particularly Takamine Hideko, Tanaka Kinuyo, and Hara Setsuko, and on one author, Hayashi Fumiko, whose novels became the bases for a number of Naruse’s films. We will begin with the 1931 silent film, “Flunky, Work Hard,” and continue through to his final film, “Scattered Clouds” (1967). No knowledge of Japanese is required; all films are subtitled in English.