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Yearning

Posted by martinteller on October 4, 2014

Reiko (Hideko Takamine) lost her husband in the war, after only 6 months of marriage.  Nonetheless, she has devoted her life to her in-laws: mother Shizu (Aiko Mamasu), sisters Hisako (Mitsuko Kusabue) and Takako (Yumi Shirakawa) and brother Koji (Yûzô Kayama).  It was Reiko who rebuilt the family’s grocery store when it was bombed.  18 years later, Hisako and Takako are out of the house and Koji is a lazy drunk who spends his time gambling and skirt chasing, so it’s Reiko who runs the store.  But now supermarkets are popping up, luring customers away from the family store.  As the family tries to restructure their business, the business threatens to restructure the family.

Sometimes you just don’t connect with a movie.  Although this appears to be one of Naruse’s most well-regarded films, it started to lose me the more it went on.  I got more and more frustrated with Reiko, and frustration became annoyance.  The ending which some call “devastating” struck me mostly as cheap, stupid and meaningless.  The final shot is compelling, thanks primarily to the expressiveness of Takamine’s face, but I wasn’t moved by Reiko’s situation.  Maybe there comes a point where you’ve seen so many movies about Japanese women repressing their feelings that it stops being a touching, tragic scenario.

Takamine is really good, though, and Kayama is great at these unlikable douchebags who manage to show another side of themselves (see also: Red Beard).  The camerawork is thoughtful, the telling compositions very typical for Naruse.  Also typical for Naruse is the focus on economic detail, and I was quite interested in the grocery business… more so than the emotions being churned up in the second act (the film’s Japanese title is “Midareru”, which most closely translates to “Turmoil” than “Yearning”).

I wish this picture had the impact on me that it seems to have on other Naruse fans.  Perhaps on another day I’d have gotten more out of it.  Rating: Good (73)

IMDb
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