Wednesday, September 2, 2015

WHEN A WOMAN ASCENDS THE STAIRS (1960)

Keiko (played by Hideko Takamine) is lovingly referred to as Mama to everybody in her little world.  She's the hostess of one of the 700+ bars in the Ginza district of Tokyo that cater to well-to-do businessmen. It's not a whorehouse, but more like a laid back nightclub where men can come and relax and hang out with sexy chicks and, who knows, you might get lucky. At 30-years-old Mama is older than most of the girls, but because she's a widow and has never slept with a customer she has developed a kind of reverence among the customers and the other girls.

When we meet Mama she's at a crossroads in her life. Should she try to marry one of the rich customers or should she try to gather up enough money to open her own bar? That's the two main choices she has, but as we all know, life has a way of throwing you all kinds of unexpected twists.

To most people that probably sounds boring, but thanks to Naruse's masterful direction, the amazing screenplay by Ryuzo (THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, YOJIMBO,SANJURO) Kikushima and such wonderful acting by everybody, including Tatsuya Nakadai as the bar manager who secretly in love with Mama, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.  Lovely music, good pace, beautiful photography...I cannot say enough wonderful things about this movie.  Highly recommended.  It gets even better with repeat viewings.