Older Brother, Younger Sister (1953)

30 01 2008

It’s a bit ironic that Mizoguchi made a very Naruse like film in 1953 with Gion Bayahsi and in the same year, Naruse turned out this film. It might not completely resemble Mizoguchi’s usual style, but it still shows examples of similar dramatic and melodramatic touches. It’s also quite odd that this is one of the two films that Naruse made for Daiei in the 50s, the other being the funny and heartbreaking Lightning (Inazuma) which shows Naruse being as nuanced as ever. Perhaps a subdued, deadpan comedy and a slightly melodramatic family drama shows that Naruse’s range can be seen even in his short partnership with Daiei.

Mon, impregnated and abandoned by her lover, is forced to return home where she’s not received with enthusiasm. Her sister, San, has also returned home but with less emotional baggage. Eventually, the tension in the family becomes unbearable and it’s all pushed to the forefront by the violent older brother, Inokichi. When Mon’s lover comes to talk to the family, her father is outraged but Inokichi’s response is even worse. He beats him up and when Mon returns back home he does the same to her resulting in a very dramatic climax.

The aforementioned melodrama is most likely a result of two things: Masuyaki Mori’s uncharaceristaclly subpar performance and the sweeping, epic score that intrudes long stretches of the films. It also seems like the sets are more noticeable in their artificiality than in other Naruse pictures. He does occasionally strike visual (and audio) gold, the most obvious case being the scene where the father looks at the flowing river: a beautiful shot with the river creating an almost ambient drone. Of course, such scenes get muddled in-between ones with painted backgrounds. It’s a testament to Naruse’s usually great use of space that only in a open film like this do I notice how dated certain things look. Probably towards the bottom if I had to rank the twelve Naruse films  I’ve seen but it’s still very good.



2 responses

30 01 2008
Michael Kerpan

I suspect Naruse _had_ to use Mori (due to studio insistence) for the part of the brother — despite his utter unsuitability for the part. Other than this bit of miscasting (a rare occurrence in a Naruse film), I have nothing but admiration for this film. The rest of the cast is certainly perfect — as is the cinematography.

I’d love to see the two other version — from 1936 nd 1976 (the latter directed by Tadashi Imai, was written by Yoko Mizuki, just like Naruse’s version).

1 02 2008

yo jake, I finally got around to watching the wayward cloud. you were right about it, it’s pretty fucking brilliant.

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