Silent Naruse [Criterion Collection] [3 Discs] [DVD]

Although not as internationally known as many of his fellow Japanese filmmakers, director Mikio Naruse created haunting dramas comparable to legends like Mizoguchi and Ozu. This Criterion release brings together five of his silent films, the only ones that are still known to exist. The films are Flunky, Work Hard, No Blood Relation, Apart From You, Every-Night Dreams, and Street Without End.
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Street Without End
Nasanu Naka
Two women vie for the love of a little girl in this Japanese melodrama, dating from the latter days of the nation's silent film era. An unstable woman who has recently divorced her husband decides she wants to pursue a career as an actress in Hollywood. Convinced that her child would only be a burden as she chases stardom in America, the would-be actress gives the baby to her former husband, and when he remarries shortly afterward, his new wife quickly bonds with the infant girl. Seven years later, the husband's business has fallen on hard times as Japan sinks into a depression, and the birth mother returns from Hollywood, where she's enjoyed surprising success. The actress demands that custody of her daughter be returned to her, but the stepmother is not willing to give up the child without a fight, and when a family court grants custody to the natural mother, the woman who has spend years with the youngster responds by kidnapping the girl. One of the earliest surviving films from the influential Japanese director Mikio Naruse, Nasanu Naka (aka Not Blood Relations) was based on a widely read novel by Yanagawa Shun'yo, which was serialized in one of Japan's most popular magazines between 1912 and 1913. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Flunky, Work Hard!
In this off-beat Japanese comedy-melodrama, an insurance salesman attempts to make enough to support his wife and son. The story is set before Japan entered WW II and offers a fascinating glimpse at the daily life there. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Apart from You
In one of his first great works, Mikio Naruse directs this bleak look into the world of the geisha. Forced into becoming a geisha by her lazy drunkard father, young Terukiku (Mitsuko Yoshikawa) falls in love with Yoshio (Akio Isono), the son of an older geisha. Angry and ashamed at her mother's lowly profession, Yoshio starts consorting with street thugs and riff-raff and is eventually injured in a fight. Terukiku takes him to recuperate with her family in a seaside town. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi

Yogoto No Yume
This silent feature by the esteemed Japanese director Mikio Naruse takes the form of a domestic melodrama. Sumiko Kurishima stars as Omitsu, a barmaid and single parent long-estranged from her irresponsible, out-of-work husband (Tatsuo Saito). When he suddenly returns without advance warning, she does anything and everything in her power to pull the pieces of her shattered family back together. Naruse employs heavy stylization to tell his story, including the repeated use of montage, a fractured chronology, and metonymical close-ups of characters' moving legs. When combined, these elements imbue the motion picture with much tension and a lingering sense of unease. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

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