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Ikiru and Mikio Naruse — a few similarities

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    Patrick Galvan

    A while back, I was thinking about the second half of Ikiru when it dawned on me that a couple of things that happen in this section of the film bear similarities to the life of another Toho director whom Kurosawa was quite fond of, Mikio Naruse.

    As I think many of us here are aware, Kurosawa had worked under Naruse during his assistant director days; he admired his senior’s mastery of editing; he counted Naruse’s Floating Clouds among his favorite films; and he gave up adapting Masuji Ibuse’s novel Black Rain so Naruse could have a shot at it. (Which, unfortunately, never happened, as Naruse was never able to get a satisfying script.)

    Naruse died of cancer in 1969, and in comparing the last few months of his life to the second half of Ikiru, I recognized a few similarities: a man who undergoes a change in personality not long after learning he’s reached a terminal condition; and a funeral with an expected female guest who never shows up.

    It’s all coincidence, of course. Kurosawa made his film long before Naruse’s passing, and there’s a multitude of differences between Naruse and Takashi Shimura’s protagonist from the film, among other things. And there’s no evidence whatsoever that Kurosawa thought at all of Naruse when he, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni were writing the script for their film. It’s just something that occurred to me, as I mention in this short article on the last few months of Mikio Naruse’s life.

    Hideko Takamine’s Remembrances of Mikio Naruse



    Reminds me of what Oscar Wilde said:

    Life imitates art more than art imitates life.



    Thank you Patrick, thats a really lovely essay. It’s been years since I’ve gone through my collection of Naruse DVD’s, but his films have a power that have always stayed with me. I’ve never been quite able to put my finger on why they are so memorable. I find it a little sad though that so few people have heard of him – even Japanese people I’ve talked to have often said they’ve never seen his films.

    I find those remembrances of him so curious – how did someone so reticent and shy actually get everyone on the set to do their work? It must have been insanely frustrating for cast and crew. Yet somehow his films are seamless and beautiful.



    What a lovely piece once again, Patrick. Thanks for sharing! He was an interesting individual and I totally agree with Ugetsu that it is unfortunate how little known he really is.

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