When A Woman Ascends The Stairs Review

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Keiko, 'Mama', is a 30 yr old Geisha with many life pressures and is of an age where she must think about her future. Should she seek a marriage, try and buy a bar herself or give up and be a kept woman.


Like Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse was raised by his sisters, and so his canon concentrates on the indomitability of working women, the indispensability of cash and the impossibility of love. Played with an affecting blend of dignity and despair by Hideko Takamine, the trials of a bar hostess in Tokyo’s Ginza district recall those of Giulietta Masina in Fellini’s Nights Of Cabiria (1957), released three years earlier.

Naruse allows no humour to relieve his pessimistic humanism, but this still provides a fascinating snapshot of conservative Japanese society before it was shattered by the ’60s.

Lustrously photographed in monochrome by Masai Tamai, this is essentially a Tokyo twist on Nights of Cabiria (1957), with Mikio Naruse and Hideko Takamine replacing Fellina and Masina's kooky optimism with a fatalistic humanism.