377 When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
Message
Author
User avatar
Jun-Dai
監督
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:34 am
Location: London, UK
Contact:

Re: 377 When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

#76 Post by Jun-Dai » Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:25 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Jun-Dai wrote:I think my favorite is Repast, aka Meshi (so far—I've only seen 3 or 4).
I've seen 68 (or so) -- and Repast remains my favorite (it was the 5th I saw). ;~}
So what you're telling me is that it's all downhill from here?

/me jumps off a bridge.

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: 377 When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

#77 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 23, 2010 1:07 pm

Jun-Dai wrote:
Michael Kerpan wrote:
Jun-Dai wrote:I think my favorite is Repast, aka Meshi (so far—I've only seen 3 or 4).
I've seen 68 (or so) -- and Repast remains my favorite (it was the 5th I saw). ;~}
So what you're telling me is that it's all downhill from here?

/me jumps off a bridge.
Nah. I've loved over 40 of the films -- and found most of the rest interesting (and well worth seeing). But Repast (like Tokyo Story) resonates particularly strongly with me on a personal (not just cinematic) level. I can't think of a better film about married life.

jojo
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2008 1:47 pm

Re: 377 When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

#78 Post by jojo » Thu Sep 23, 2010 5:11 pm

Jun-Dai wrote:My guess is they picked it because it has the best title. Who wouldn't want to buy/watch a film with this title?

I think my favorite is Repast, aka Meshi (so far—I've only seen 3 or 4).
I'm kicking myself for not catching the Naruse retrospective that was doing the rounds around North America a few years ago.

It is definitely time for Criterion to spit out a few more Naruse films.

artfilmfan
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:11 pm

Re: 377 When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

#79 Post by artfilmfan » Thu Sep 23, 2010 7:39 pm

IMHO, this and "Floating Clouds" are his two best films. My favorite is "Floating Clouds".

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: 377 When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

#80 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:16 pm

jojo wrote:I'm kicking myself for not catching the Naruse retrospective that was doing the rounds around North America a few years ago.

It is definitely time for Criterion to spit out a few more Naruse films.
The retrospective was fine -- but too small -- plenty of wonderful things got left out.

I'm not holding my breath for any further Criterion Naruse releases (not that I won't welcome them, if they ever happen).

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#81 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:39 am

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, OCTOBER 14th AT 7:00 AM.


Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.


RESOURCES:
Criterion thread
Naruse filmmaker thread


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.

-How does Naruse treat the idea of wealth?
-What do the stairs represent for Keiko?


***PM me if you have any suggestions for additions or just general concerns and questions.***

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#82 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Sep 30, 2013 6:33 am

Discussion is open.

I'll be interested in the coming discussion mostly because this was my first Naruse and it left me indifferent. I don't have any criticisms to make, and if pressed could list things that were probably good about it; but it didn't leave an impression on me at all. Bit disappointing--and compounding that disappointment was that I watched another 'woman suffering' film, The Insect Woman, a day later and was mightily impressed with it. So I would really love to hear why When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is a masterpiece and what I was missing when I watched it.

I also added to the first post a couple of discussion questions that someone was kind enough to send me last night.

User avatar
Lemmy Caution
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 3:26 am
Location: East of Shanghai

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#83 Post by Lemmy Caution » Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:07 am

Will dig this out and re-watch it.
Was wondering if anyone could comment on the Japanese title.
The word "ascends" seems a significant/loaded term, and I was interested in how that verb plays out in Japanese.
I'll check the Naruse thread, but could anyone could offer a capsule summary of Naruse's style, approach, concerns, etc.

User avatar
mfunk9786
Under Chris' Protection
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#84 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:27 am

I have been awful at keeping up with this because of my job suddenly demanding a whole lot from me, schedule-wise, leaving the remaining time almost required for recreation rather than assigned viewing, but I am glad to see this one's on Hulu Plus and will make it my business to watch and post. At least, hopefully! It's one I've meant to see for a long time now.

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#85 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Sep 30, 2013 12:51 pm

Mr. Sausage, I must confess -- I felt a bit like you when I first watched Woman Ascending. I was totally enraptured by Ozu at that point -- and Naruse seemed like a gloomier and less lively imitation of Ozu. Late Chrysanthemums and Mother both made somewhat better first impressions. As I recall, it took me almost a year, until I got to see Repast, Sound of the Mountain and Lightning, befor I was finally able to lock into Naruse's wavelength -- and began to really understand his peculiar brand of humor (less coarse, but somewhat like Imamura's in other respects) and manner of handling of both stories and visuals.

I need to rewatch Woman Ascending before I comment more specifically (as its been 3 or 4 years since I last saw it (though I saw it at least 4-5 times in past years).
Last edited by Michael Kerpan on Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Drucker
Your Future our Drucker
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 9:37 am

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#86 Post by Drucker » Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:23 pm

Since others are adding their two cents before lengthier discussion gets underway, I'd like to chime in and say I absolutely loved this film. I remember enjoying the Silent Naruse box set, but never got around to picking up anything else by Naruse. So only being familiar with that era, and having not watched many Japanese New Wave films (does this count as one?), I was first pleasantly surprised with the cool tone the film struck.

Reading that Naruse often focused on the plight of women, I've always imagined in my mind that his films would remind me of Mizoguchi, a director I haven't yet come to appreciate. But A Woman Ascends I was immediately drawn into. And the one point I'll make before saying more later: what grabbed me the most was feeling, with Keiko, the pull in so many different directions from so many different players in the film.

I still want to watch with the commentary before chiming in more, and want to see what other people have to say, and I look forward to the discussion.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#87 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:27 pm

I'll have some comments soon-- I just showed it to my mom (she's taking another film course in the Board of Ed's union retirement perks, and the teacher was focusing women in film in the latterly half of the 20th century... she loved it and I liked it just as much as I always have, more later; some of these Naruses strike me as almost Sirkian, though visually not as deliberately muscular) not more than three weeks ago.

Michael, or any other Japanese speaking members here: is this title an attempt at translating the Japanese title? What is the actual Japanese title if not.

I ask because I really dislike this title. I think it's completely stilted and fails at the art of "title poetry" in the manner where Floating Couds, Repast, Sound of the Mountain etc hugely succeed.

And that failure is surprising, because staircases/stairways are so utterly user friendly in terms of poetry.

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#88 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:28 pm

Lemmy Caution wrote:Was wondering if anyone could comment on the Japanese title.
The word "ascends" seems a significant/loaded term, and I was interested in how that verb plays out in Japanese.
The Japanaese title is "Onna ga kaidan o agaru toki". This is, properly speaking, a sentence fragment, an introductory clause that assumes some explanatory detail will follow.

Literally it is "When the woman goes up (ascends) the stairs, ..."

As in "When I get home, the first thing I do is take off my shoes (or check the mail, or pat my dog, or whatever)"

"toki" is a clause ending particle that tells you that what goes before it is the time when some action that follows it happens.

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#89 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:31 pm

"Repast" actually strikes me as an overly flowery translation of "Meshi" -- which simply means a plain ordinary every day meal (almost invariably featuring cooked rice).

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#90 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:32 pm

Hah! Shows I need to read all posts before I throw mine up there.

EDIT: Mike or anyone else-- would you say that the Japanese title works better in its own tongue than the english title works on its own?

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#91 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:47 pm

I think the title makes almost no sense in English, but is reasonably interesting in Japanese. The natural question on encountering the Japanese title, is -- well, what DOES happen when the woman goes up the stairs.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#92 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:02 pm

I'm glad you feel the way I do--at least I'm not alone. I mean I think the title is a complete flop-- hugely stilted, virtually meaningless, devoid of poetry, utterly lacking in narrative or poetic suggestion the way it sounds like the authentic Japanese title is suggestive.

But it is what it is I guess. Certainly doesn't tarnish an extremely well crafted and highly affecting drama.

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#93 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:17 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:I'm glad you feel the way I do--at least I'm not alone. I mean I think the title is a complete flop-- hugely stilted, virtually meaningless, devoid of poetry, utterly lacking in narrative or poetic suggestion the way it sounds like the authentic Japanese title is suggestive.

But it is what it is I guess. Certainly doesn't tarnish an extremely well crafted and highly affecting drama.
If one doesn't know the entirely different role that "toki" plays in the Japanese title from the role played by "when" in the English one, one can't really understad the title. (I don't think any DVD release to date has, in fact, explained the title). The Japanese clause ends with a sort of cliff-hangar word, it points to something one needs to find out. The English title sort of sits there like a lump -- the focus seems to on the time of stair climbing itself -- and who cares about that. ;~}

User avatar
matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#94 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:29 pm

Is that the same usage as in all the Ozu "I Was ______, But..." titles? Is that something that shows up in a lot of Japanese titles, or is it possible that the one is deliberately echoing the other?

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#95 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:36 pm

Seems like the Japanese title plays the same function as the title of Italo Calvino's penultimate novel: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. The latter is meant to suggest a beginning without an end, since of course the novel is constructed out of beginnings that have no ends. In that case the unfinished nature of the Japanese title is appropriate since in a way the story is also unfinished, with Keiko haphazardly wandering through the narrative without ever reaching a destination, in fact just ending up back where she started, in the same position, with very little having been resolved. Most of the other characters get some sort of resolution, either striking out on their own, committing suicide, resolving their court case, leaving the city with their family, ect. Keiko observes or helps with all of this and, despite her efforts, never quite makes it anywhere.

User avatar
zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#96 Post by zedz » Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:49 pm

One of the features of Naruse's films that differentiates him from almost every other director - except for Fassbinder - is his concern with the economics of his characters' lives. In the work of both directors, characters' choices are primarily constrained by what they can afford to do, and 'money troubles' are never vague.

Plenty of films and filmmakers complicate their characters' lives with financial issues, but these are almost always simplistic or generalized (so-and-so has no money whatsoever; such-and-such seems to live well but somehow can't afford the McGuffin; this couple can't get married until their yearly earnings exceed some random figure) or else are little more than naked plot devices (the bank will take the house in 48 hours unless our heroes come up with $x; little Betty Blank needs to save up enough to buy a titular tchotchke). The financial dilemmas in Naruse's and Fassbinder's films are much more complex and dominating, and we get to see just how deterministic economics can be for many people. Though I wouldn't call either filmmaker Marxist. They're both more interested in melodrama with a hard fiscal edge.

User avatar
Sloper
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 10:06 pm

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#97 Post by Sloper » Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:54 pm

Quick post (like everyone else, apparently) - I too was totally underwhelmed by this when I first saw it. Watching it again the other day, after having seen most of the other Naruses available on English-speaking DVD (and gradually thawing, especially with Repast and Floating Clouds), I think it's a masterpiece and can't wait to watch it again. Perhaps it helps that I'm no longer going into it expecting a combination of Early Summer and Street of Shame.

I agree that the title sounds quite naff, but the symbolism of the act itself is very rich, despite being spelled out quite carefully near the start of the film. It has to do with the acting of compromising, and the way in which this process happens by incremental stages. Every time Keiko goes up those stairs, she comes closer and closer to full acceptance of reality. The film ends when she stops resisting that reality, and there is a kind of relief in this; but Sausage is right that this isn't quite a resolution, and you can't help but wonder what fresh horrors await her now that she has, so to speak, ascended the stairs once and for all. Notice the close-ups of her feet going up the steps the first few times - we don't get it at the end, if I remember rightly, suggesting that there are no more 'increments' to go through. This is her life now. Plastering on the fake smile and prostituting herself to anyone who can help stave off the debt. Naruse's tone is far more detached and ironic than, say, Mizoguchi's, but this really is harrowing stuff.

One discussion question that might prompt some interesting responses: is Keiko an unambiguously sympathetic character? We've talked about this issue a lot in the last two film club discussions, but Keiko may be our least (morally) compromised character yet. She seems to have so much more integrity and dignity than anyone else in the film. Does this make her a bit limited as a protagonist?

(For what it's worth I think she's a very complex character, but would like to know how others respond to her.)

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#98 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Sep 30, 2013 3:02 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Is that the same usage as in all the Ozu "I Was ______, But..." titles? Is that something that shows up in a lot of Japanese titles, or is it possible that the one is deliberately echoing the other?
"I Was Born But..." (and the earlier "I Graduated But ..." and "I Flunked But ...) all end with the particle "keredo". This particle can be used at the end of a sentence -- or at the end of a clause. In the latter case, it (like "toki" in Naruse's title) serves as a set-up line for the more important information which is expected to follow. It can be used to imply that the follow-up to the "but" is somewhat disappointing (or likely to be so), but not necessarily.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#99 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Sep 30, 2013 3:03 pm

I know Nakadai's character accuses Keiko of finally sinking into prostitution, but am I wrong in interpreting her gesture to return the doctor's bond as a final refusal to be a prostitute, to accept that kind of treatment? So I doubt somewhat that she will actually resort to prostitution beyond the close of the narrative, considering her final act is a repudiation of it, as far as I can tell. That scene at the train station is also one of the most cutting acts of revenge and humiliation I've seen considering it's all done with a scrupulous sense of politeness and decorum.

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

#100 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Sep 30, 2013 3:11 pm

Sloper, my trajectory with WaWAtS has been much the sme as yours. I now consider it wonderful -- even if I will never love it quite as much as some of the others (e.g. Repast and Lightning).

I agree Keiko might have the _most_ integrity of thecharacters we see, but we also see her compromising her integrity in her quest for security (and for an escape). Not that I _blame_ her, under the circumstances. And there ARE limits to how far SHE will bend her principles.

Mr. S -- I think Keiko is pretty close to in love with the doctor. And I don't think what she does at the end was intended for revenge and humilition. I think it is (1) kind-hearted and (2) saving her own dignity (letting him lover know that she was never "for sale").

Post Reply