(1960)4Michael CostelloMikio Naruseis unjustifiably but perhaps understandably less well-known than more Westernized colleagues like Kurosawa, due to his restrained, often somber style, which the director of Rashomon (1951) described as being "like a great river with a calm surface, and a raging current in its depths." Keiko (Hideko Takamine), a bar hostess in the Ginza district, a strong and dignified woman, bears the buffeting of her life with just such a calm surface. A widow, now at the age of 30, she casts about for a means of survival, unwilling to make her life easier by turning to prostitution, like her co-workers, out of respect for the memory of her husband. A compassionate account of the wrenching vicissitudes of the life of a woman far superior to her surroundings, it achieves its considerable power through Naruse's stoic, unblinking camera work, juxtaposing the poise of his heroine against the frenetic atmosphere of the bar and its frantically moneygrubbing owners. Takamine, Naruse's favorite actress, gives a performance of great depth, nuance, and delicacy, and Tatsuya Nakadai has a sharp turn as a comic bartender.
releases for When a Woman Ascends the Stairs on AllMovie