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Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse (Flunky, Work Hard / No Blood Relation / Apart from You / Every-Night Dreams / Street Without End) (The Criterion Collection) (1934)

Shizue Akiyama , Seiichi Kato , Mikio Naruse  |  Unrated |  DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse (Flunky, Work Hard / No Blood Relation / Apart from You / Every-Night Dreams / Street Without End) (The Criterion Collection) + Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu + Eclipse Series 38: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System (The Thick-Walled Room, I Will Buy You, Black River, The Inheritance) (Criterion Collection)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Shizue Akiyama, Seiichi Kato, Tomoko Naniwa, Tokio Seki, Hideo Sugawara
  • Directors: Mikio Naruse
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: April 5, 2011
  • Run Time: 370 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004GFGUEK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,626 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

Flunky, Work Hard (Koshiben ganbare)

Mikio Naruse’s earliest film in circulation is a charming, breezy short about an impoverished insurance salesman, Okabe, who is desperate to sell a policy to a wealthy family, and his scrappy young son, whose fisticuffs among the other boys of their village put Okabe’s livelihood in jeopardy. This rare Naruse film about a father and son hints at some of the fluid technical experimentation that would come to define his first films.

1931

28 minutes

Black & White

Japanese intertitles with English subtitles

Silent with optional score

1.33:1 aspect ratio

No Blood Relation (Nasanu naka)

An actress returns to Tokyo after a successful stint in Hollywood to reclaim the daughter she abandoned years before—with the help of her gangster brother. Yet the child’s father, and especially her nurturing new stepmother, won’t give in to the mother’s demands so easily. With its mix of maternal melodrama and expressionistic flourish, No Blood Relation is a gripping example of Mikio Naruse’s cinematic boldness, and features a screenplay by Ozu’s famed collaborator Kogo Noda.

1932

79 minutes

Black & White

Japanese intertitles with English subtitles

Silent with optional score

1.33:1 aspect ratio

Apart from You (Kimi to wakarete)

For Apart from You, Mikio Naruse turned his camera on the lives of working women, which he would continue to do throughout his long career. Here, he contrasts the life of an aging geisha, whose angry teenage son is ashamed of her career, with that of her youthful counterpart, a lovely young girl resentful of her family for selling her into a life of ignominy. This gently devastating evocation of women’s limited options in Depression-era Japan was a critical breakthrough for the director.

1933

60 minutes

Black & White

Japanese intertitles with English subtitles

Silent with optional score

1.33:1 aspect ratio

Every-Night Dreams (Yogoto no yume)

A single mother works tirelessly as a Ginza bar hostess to ensure a better life for her young son. Her long-lost husband returns, vowing to find work and take care of both her and the child, yet his presence only complicates matters in this atmospheric study of lower-class life set in the dockside neighborhoods of Tokyo. Mikio Naruse’s Every-Night Dreams is a formally ravishing drama about the desperation of daily living.

1933

65 minutes

Black & White

Japanese intertitles with English subtitles

Silent with optional score

1.33:1 aspect ratio

Street Without End (Kagirinaki hodo)

Mikio Naruse’s final silent film is a gloriously rich portrait of a waitress, Sugiko, whose life, despite a host of male admirers and even some intrigued movie talent scouts, ends up taking a suffocatingly domestic turn after a wealthy businessman accidentally hits her with his car. Featuring vividly drawn characters and an audacious commentary on politics and class in 1930s Japan, Street Without End is a grandly entertaining melodrama that brought Naruse deftly into the sound era.

1934

88 minutes

Black & White

Japanese intertitles with English subtitles

Silent with optional score

1.33:1 aspect ratio


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Mikio Naruse (Floating Clouds, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs) was one of the most popular directors in Japan, a crafter of exquisite melodramas, mostly about women confined by their social and domestic circumstances. Though often compared with Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi for his style and treatment of characters, Naruse was a unique artist, making heartrending, brilliantly photographed and edited films about the impossible pursuit of happiness. From the outset of his career, with his silent films of the early thirties, Naruse zeroed in on the lives of the kinds of people—geisha, housewives, waitresses—who would continue to fascinate him for the next three decades. Though he made two dozen silent films, only five remain in existence; these works—poignant, dazzlingly made dramas all—are collected here, newly restored and on DVD for the first time, and featuring optional new scores by noted musicians Robin Holcomb and Wayne Horvitz.

Amazon.com

This outwardly unremarkable three-disc set from the Criterion Collection's pared-down offshoot Eclipse label is an intriguing collection of the earliest surviving work of Japanese director Mikio Naruse. Its appeal should hardly be limited to those with a scholarly interest in the nascent efforts of a master whose work has largely been unrecognized by Western audiences. It also makes for a fascinating glimpse into how the language of cinema developed in tandem with some of the more ambitious works being produced in the United States, Germany, and the Soviet Union as filmmakers were gaining greater understanding of the emotional, artistic, and intellectual impact this new form could have as a popular entertainment medium. Naruse is probably fourth in line behind Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Yasujiro Ozu in the Japanese directors' hall of fame, but that's probably a distant fourth, and his name may not be known at all to many. He was a stolid, workmanlike purveyor of films about ordinary people often living bleak lives in contemporary times, producing about 90 films over a career that spanned from 1930 to 1967 (he died in 1969). Most of those films are lost, and only one has been readily available to region 1 viewers, his 1960 masterpiece When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (on Criterion DVD). The five silent films in this set were made between 1931 and 1934, and they show a rapid development of style and form, and favored content that leaned heavily on melodrama, but were easily accessible to audiences of their time and remain striking for their lasting historical impact.

The most lighthearted in the set is Flunky, Work Hard (1931), Naruse's earliest surviving work, which follows a poor, bumbling, and somewhat infantile insurance salesman as he tries to woo a new client, keep his disgruntled wife happy, and maintain a relationship with his troublesome young son. This truncated, 28-minute romp includes lots of genuine comic bits that recall early Hollywood two-reelers before it lapses into the kind of tortuous family drama that marks all the films in the set. It's also a great starting point for the affecting anthropological portrait all the films provide in capturing everyday life in suburban Tokyo in the early '30s. Naruse often took his camera on location into the narrow alleys, fields, and bustling streets inhabited by his characters, and it's as captivating to see the reality of ordinary backgrounds in Japan during that time as it is to see the open spaces of small-town Los Angeles in concurrently made films from early Hollywood.

The rest of the films in the set conform more closely to themes that Naruse would develop for most of the rest of his career, following the sagas and struggles of primarily female protagonists who undergo hardships and heartbreaks with very few happy endings. No Blood Relation (1932), Apart from You (1933), and Every-Night Dreams (1933) are fairly bald examples of melodrama, but show enough freshness of technique to explain Naruse's popularity as an accomplished storyteller. Aging geishas, struggling mothers and mothers-in-law, children who are conflicted or caught in the middle, husbands or suitors who are either absent or angry, and the pull of tradition versus the somewhat tawdry lure of modernity are recurring themes in these short features that also rely heavily on expressionistic or experimental techniques to often startling effect. Some of these techniques are deliberately meant to draw attention to themselves and are often overused. A favorite Naruse device of repeated fast tracking shots on characters' faces to emphasize emotional conflict becomes unintentionally humorous after a while. Another common thematic element that turns excessively comic is having a character be hit by a car (or train). It's a device Naruse uses to precipitate bedside drama or resolution of some sort, but which comes off as facile in nearly every context. (Rather than being maimed or mangled, the victims simply fall ill and are confined to bed for such time as is convenient to the needs of the script.) Street Without End (1934) is the only full feature-length film in the set, and it roundly fleshes out the themes Naruse explores more daintily in the other offerings. A waitress in a Ginza restaurant struggles with suitors and a seemingly dead-end existence, ultimately failing at marriage and with finding a way out of her bleak, existential life issues. Though still mired in the trappings of melodrama, it shows genuine stylistic assurance and the promise of a world-class filmmaker who has much better control of craft and the subtlety of film as both art and entertainment. All the films in this beguiling collection include spare, unobtrusive scores (optional) composed and performed by Robin Holcomb and Wayne Horvitz that add a haunting, muted background nicely suited to the action. --Ted Fry


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By blue
Verified Purchase
This is a collection of Naruse's five surviving silent films. At that time, he was with the Shochiku studio which was famous for films of ordinary people's everyday drama, and their president Kido stated that they didn't need the second Ozu, referring Naruse.

*Flunky, Work Hard
Being from a Dad's perspective instead of a boy, this film reminds me of Ozu's "I was born, but." and interesting & odd to see Naruse's film without female leading role.

*No Blood Relation
This melodrama was based on a newspaper serial from 1912, which have been filmed staggering 8 times, and performed on stages for numerous times as well, obviously one of the Japan's favorite stories at that time, probably because the loyalty that the young girl exhibited to her step mother who had raised her was very appealing to the audience. For this filming in 1932, which was 7th of it, Naruse was allowed to use Top Stars like gorgeous Yoshiko Okada and very handsome Jouji Oka. The story goes like a mother who abandoned her newborn baby daughter went to Hollywood to be a star, came back as a rich & famous to reclaim her daughter. Nope, this is obviously not the material for Naruse. He excelled on more realistic stories of women who was exploited by men & society. However, Naruse did his best to make the characters believable, and especially Yoshiko Okada did a wonderful job. Also he was not shy away from the experimental techniques.

*Apart from you
The most important film of this Naruse's period, at least among the surviving films of his. This is a story of a young Geisha, who was forced to be in that business because of her lazy father, tried to survive through and sacrificed herself for her younger sister at the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing July 29, 2011
By WSH
Verified Purchase
This is a treasurable set of silent films from the great Japanese director Mikio Naruse. Anyone who has enjoyed his later work should explore these early-1930s productions. The stories are simple and share many plot elements in common, but that is not a serious detraction because Naruse's interest, and the strength of his direction, is his focus on character, emotion and the battle of the individual (especially women) against adverse social forces. His flamboyant filming and editing style load each of these films with memorable images that constantly engage the eye. His actors are first-rate - again, especially the women (Sumiko Mizukubo and Sumiko Kurushima, among the younger cohort, really stand out).

The films are not pristine-quality, as you'd expect. Sure, there is a fair amount of flecking and fading. However, they are still perfectly watchable. The fact that Naruse shot a lot of exteriors makes them especially interesting as documents of Tokyo at the time. The set comes with modern (optional) music tracks, which are well suited to the material. Naruse is a film-maker of extraordinary sensitivity to social conditions and the human predicament, as seen through the eyes of geisha, waitresses, moga, lower-rung salarymen, working class couples, delinquents and the unemployed. His films offer a rare and intriguing glimpse into pre-war Japan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful February 21, 2013
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Naruse's silent films are wonderful. Strong female characters that stand with and against stereotyped Japanese women. Funky, Work Hard father figure is a joy too see. No Blood Relation is gritty and touching as is Street Without End. Apart from You and Every-Night Dreams are the single mother's tributes.
Naruse never disappoints.
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5.0 out of 5 stars gems September 30, 2014
By Zangiku
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these are wonderful films and so lucky are we to have them out in subtitles!, when such early naruse is rare even in japan. a particular jewel is Apart From You, an example of the very best in delicate japanese melodrama and a powerful addition to any feminist syllabus. it stars as the young oppressed geisha the luminous mizukubo sumiko, who is otherwise nearly impossible to see [she has a good but small supporting role in ozu's silent Dragnet Girl]. her career lasted only 3 years, ending in studio blackballing over peronal tragedy. this film alone is worth the price, and a must for all j-film fans.
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