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Naruse’s ‘Repast’ in Colour? (Plus thoughts thereof)

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    Yesterday, I watched Naruse’s Repast, and was surprised to realise that I had actually seen it before. And not only that, but it also turned out to be a movie that I had for years been, if not searching for, then at least thinking about relatively often.

    Except that I had always thought that it was an Ozu film, and that it was in colour. Which would explain why I have never been able to identify it among all the Ozu films that I have read about.

    I can actually explain the Ozu bit, as I saw the film as part of an Ozu series some twelve years ago, and that particular cinema was not always entirely accurate with their schedules. Once, for instance, they advertised Eisenstein’s Strike, but ended up showing some French movie instead. It is entirely plausible that they might have had a last-minute switch from an Ozu film to a Naruse one, and that I had missed the information about the change.

    But what I can’t explain is why I distinctly remembered Repast to be in colour. Does anyone know if a colour print of the film even exists? It could of course be that the colour had in my mind “filtered in” from another film that I saw as part of that Ozu series, perhaps from some Ozu film that includes a setting similar to the one at the heart of Repast. At least Good Morning, I seem to remember, uses a milieu quite similar to the one we have in Repast (I’m thinking about the area in which the protagonists live).

    Anyway, it was a strange feeling to finally discover this film again, after so many years. And yet, I must say that I was actually somewhat disappointed with the film itself. There just didn’t seem to be all that much to it, and in spite of some very good performances (especially by the magnificent Setsuko Hara), I didn’t really feel drawn into the story. Somehow I felt that while all the elements to make an excellent film were there, the execution was lacking. The ending was also quite puzzling, and not in a good way.

    This is actually the second recent setback in my current attempt to educate myself about Kurosawa’s contemporaries. A few weeks ago I watched Mizoguchi’s Sansho the Bailiff, and to my great disappointment, I didn’t feel too enthusiastic about that one, either. While Sansho was certainly technically brilliant and aesthetically beautiful, the story and especially so the characters just felt forced, distant and relatively uninteresting.

    Maybe there is something wrong with the way I watch Japanese films these days. Too much Kurosawa? Perhaps so. But I will keep soldiering on. And even after these recent disappointments, I am really looking forward to my next Naruse and Mizoguchi films (Sound of the Mountain and A Geisha, respectively).



    WHHHHAATTTTT??? Vili, say it isn’t so!

    Sansho the Bailiff is one of my faves! Mizoguchi’s heartbreakingly beautiful, and deeply touching poem about love and loss never fails to move me! I was surprised to learn that there are several versions of the story, and very surprised at Mizoguchi’s particular choices, but I learned all of it after the fact, and while watching the film was completely involved in it. It’s a fairy tale-as I am certain you know-and these have their own logic…

    It’s true that a Mizoguchi film ends up someplace different from Kurosawa in his films-

    The finality of Mizoguchi’s films are so different from the ongoing struggle for meaning you take from a Kurosawa film…but, my gosh, the beauty of his images-they are haunting, literally, in terms of his film Ugetsu!

    You mentioned earlier in this post about the Naruse film that haunted you…Ugetsu was like that for me-haunted me for years until I found it again. But, in my case, I was not disappointed with the rediscovery.

    Maybe Mizoguchi won’t be your buddy, or maybe you are just not yet used to Mizoguchi’s art. (artifice). I think that Kurosawa has off-putting stuff, too, that we embrace once we decide we will. (And, since so much in art appreciation is about the subjective element, our decision or will matters. Nobody has a better reason to understand the role of will than a guy named Vili (will, desire, internal thought that leads to action)).

    My friends roll their eyes when I try to get them to watch Kurosawa. They don’t get it, and mostly, they can’t get past the distancing effects…things like the overheated acting, the black and white stuff, the language barrier…all the things I embrace and love. It may be the ugly puppy thing-somebody has to see something strange in an ugly puppy that compels them to “will” the Shar-Pei into being…

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