We are on day 4 of the Mikio Naruse marathon and today I wanna talk about Dancing Girl, a movie he made in 1951 featuring some nasty affairs and the typical family drama.
Dancing Girl is quite the unique piece in Naruse cinema, it is not his most famous film and definitely not the best, but it is one of the few films he made that clearly talks about the aftermath of Japans participation in World War 2 and it features a clearly comfortable middle class family by comparison to the usual lower class family dramas in his works. There are mentions of how the war ruined “the fabric of the Japanese society” and the way it shows of the change in Japan is very well done.
To give a short recap of the story; The troubled relationship between a writer and his ballet teacher wife, who has for years loved another man, finally leads to the breakup of the family.
Now this is fascinating due to the theme of economic problems being clearly gone here. The family in focus does not appear to have any major money issues, and the focus on ballet as a symbolism for the wife Namiko(Played by the incredible Mieko Takamine in a pretty good part)s grief and how she handles being in her marriage and caring for her kids while she still has the strong feelings for this other man.
We see the start of Naruse in his “Greatest” era here. Like the terrific Sound of The Mountain from 1954 we have what seems like a normal family life, before we feel the tense suspension behind it.
The ending, is one of the most beautiful uses of cinematography I have ever seen. Namiko is running back to her repenant husband, and Naruse manages to use the open atmosphere of the dance studio to create cinema magic. It is hard to describe with words exactly how beautiful that scene is, it should just be seen.
The big problem with Dancing Girl, is that Naruse does not succeed in managing to make “the film his own” and by that I mean that he never manages to truly capture the sorrow of living in an unhappy marriage, it is a pretty film with some great acting from Takamine as the strong female lead but none of the others really manages to live up to her.
Naruses uses of Mise-en-scene in his shots are also something no other japanese director manages, the use of sets and costumes makes everything fascinating to look at. The big studio. The beautiful costumes, and the great way mise-en-scene and cinematography is combines into making film art.
Naruse made all his most known films in the 1950s and 1960s and Dancing Girl was a start, like everything this brilliant man made it is worth seeing, it is visually astonishing if you are weak to excellent cinematography. and well everything Naruse directed is clearly worth seeing and my fascination for this unique director grows stronger very day.