Monday, 23 August 2010

MORNING'S TREE-LINED STREET (JAPAN/1936/MIKIO NARUSE)

A young woman named Chiyo boards a taxi to Tokyo, leaving behind her family home in the countryside in favour of finding a job in the city. Following directions scrawled in her diary, she meets up with childhood friend Hisako who, under the new name of Shigeyo, has taken an unappealing job as a bar hostess, confessing that it was the only employment she could find given her rural upbringing. Chiyo heeds her advice, but after an unsuccessful jobhunt, she too finds herself working as a hostess in one of Tokyo’s poorer quarters. Here she learns about the broken dreams and relationships of her colleagues and the obstacles encountered by country girls in the city.

One of three films that Mikio Naruse made with his wife-to-be Sachiko Chiba in 1936, Morning’s Tree-Lined Street came at a time that Naruse began to notice a supposed lapse in the quality of his films, a problem he ascribed partly to his relationship with Chiba. In her role here as Chiyo, Chiba is vulnerable and uninitiated, and her trajectory is largely shaped by the vicarious experiences of the other characters. Though unconstrained by the ideals of home and family usually seen in his films, the film is an oddly personal document, and the elevation in visual creativity, which sees the camera outdoors as often as indoors, suggests a shift in Naruse’s state of mind. An extra scene of Chiyo’s family might have helped illustrated her disillusionment in the city, but the film succeeds elsewhere.





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