Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Short Cuts: February '06

Approach of Autumn
d. Mikio Naruse, 1960

Naruse's usual themes are on display here (FYI: Simultaneous empowerment and debasement (Word? Sure!) of women; Need/Desire for cash and social status; City V. Country. If you were unaware of these items, have no fear - I didn't know thing one about Naruse until 3 weeks ago.) The last of these is most prominently on display here, particularly the sincerity and power of the country as superior to the false simulacrum of the city. (Case in Point: a little boy - protagonist - is searching for a beetle, which he claims one can only find in the country. He spies two teenagers making out and sees a beetle on the strewn pile of the female's clothes. The boy grabs the beetle, but the girl's sweater follows the beetle. Turns out it was a beetle-imaged brooch, a mere simulacrum of reality.) This is a fun thread to follow, and one that I think there is a lot to say about. And Naruse does say a good deal: the early cityscape pocked with walking suits is match cut to a jungle gym crawling with kids - the insidious nature of the city begins right away; the young protagonist is confronted numerous times by city bullies, only to conquer them each time (Naruse's real deal is opposition, I think) - the sincerity of the country wins against the facade of the city. Unfortunately, a strange side story develops involving a little girl and her infatuation/pet amusement with the boy. It's cute, but the aside involves some pretty insidious ideas. Naruse generally is concerned with the state of 30-something women, and he has a good thing going, but the utilitarian way in which this young girl uses the young boy debases what Naruse says about older women. That is, because the young girl is so callow and callous, she causes the viewer to reevaluate Naruse's M.O. concerning the poor treatment of women (i.e. is he not criticizing and instead just "showing?") I admit, this is a bit silly, and the point is probably just to show that relationships between males and females are difficult and screwed up from day one, but look at how far we've come from that nasty little piece about city v. country. Naruse had a great thing going there, and missed the mark a bit when he chose to stray from it.