When A Woman Ascends The Stairs review

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Until very recently, even cinephiles might’ve had only a vague idea that Naruse was a contemporary of Ozu, Mizoguchi and Kurosawa, and held in equally high esteem in Japan. A DVD box set on the Masters of Cinema label made a lot of film fans take notice, and a retrospective now makes its way to the BFI Southbank, with this rigorously composed 1960 feature as its centerpiece. Like many of Naruse’s melodramas, this is a sympathetic account of the plight of single women in Japanese society. Keiko (Takamine Hideko), or “Mama-san”, is a bar hostess working in Tokyo’s Ginza district. Her job is to flirt with the customers, but her only hope for the future is to land a husband or a generous “patron”. Step by step, we watch even these options close off. A heartbreaker.

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The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, New Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Jack Shepherd. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.