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Mikio Naruse Tribute

1.  Every Night Dreams / Mikio Naruse, Japan
2.  Floating Clouds / Mikio Naruse, Japan
3.  Flowing / Mikio Naruse, Japan
4.  Late Chrysanthemums / Mikio Naruse, Japan
5.  Mother / Mikio Naruse, Japan
6.  Repast / Mikio Naruse, Japan
7.  Scattered Clouds a.k.a.Two in the Shadow / Mikio Naruse, Japan
8.  Sound of the Mountain / Mikio Naruse, Japan
9.  When a Woman Ascends the Stairs / Mikio Naruse, Japan
10.  Yearning / Mikio Naruse, Japan

Mikio Naruse
The Unknown Fourth

One of the most frequent criticisms directed from time to time at the Thessaloniki Festival is that it acts more like a cinémathèque, a fact that, theoretically, goes against the role of a festival which is to go after the new.The tribute in question aims at a double revelation, since it does not merely aspire to introduce the Greek public to the fourth – unknown – giant of Japanese cinema, equal to Ozu, Mizoguchi and Kurosawa. Mikio Naruse (1905-1969) was undoubtedly a case of overlooked talent (the Japanese studios considered him too Japanese and too close to Ozu) and that is surely a good enough reason for us to present the oeuvre of one who was “wronged.” But the real reason for the tribute lies elsewhere: In our intention to prove that the modernism of this major filmmaker is relevant in a way (or rather in many ways) to the postmodern present, and that the images of the great Naruse still flow unscathed by time,“like a great river with a calm surface and strong currents in its depths,” as his admirer Akira Kurosawa used to say; and that, of course, these images don’t survive exclusively as a cinematic oddity – as something only a museum or a cinephile would be interested in. Besides, his films are deeply popular – becoming great successes in his country – and uncomplicated. If for Godard, to make a film you need “a man, a woman and a gun,” for Naruse “the gun is a luxury,” as the Japanese critic Shiguehiko Hasumi has put it, most aptly. His practically dedramatized, minimalist melodramas can easily be encapsulated in a phrase familiar to the older generations but nknown to the younger ones: acceptance and resistance. His heroes and mainly his heroines (often so far ahead of their times) are overwhelmed by difficulties and disappointments and yet they endure because they accept, and perhaps that is their greatest secret, and Naruse’s as well, since his own life was also fraught with difficulties.

The selection of the films for the tribute, given the limited space, was a true conundrum, which we hope we solved to a certain extent by seeking out a collection that would serve ideally as an introduction to a huge and multidimensional oeuvre. Naruse made 89 films, of which less that half survive to this day.We picked out only ten, necessarily focusing on his greatest moments, on his golden period after 1950 during which one success followed the other, culminating in the masterly Floating Clouds (1955) και When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960).And of course our selection could not be without Naruse’s color swan song Scattered Clouds, one of the most mystical moments in his filmography.

In an attempt to make as tangible as possible the bridges that link the past to the present, we asked Your Hand in Mine, an especially promising duet from Thessaloniki, to write the original music which will be performed live during the screening of Naruse’s silent masterpiece, Every Night Dreams. And that’s the same reason why the special publication that accompanies the tribute features texts by a new generation of reviewers who have been dazzled to discover his oeuvre.As have we. In regard to the discovery of Naruse, honorary mention is due to Audie Bock, since she is the one who reintroduced him to Europe when she presented his oeuvre in Locarno in 1983; also to Philip Lopate, a wonderful guide to the soul of Naruse’s work; and to James Quandt, Senior Programmer at Cinémathèque Ontario and organizer of the Naruse tributes in North America, a man who declares that “Naruse is my passion.” May we be allowed to say that it was with the same passion that we have tried to bring a small sample of his work to Thessaloniki and to prove, as the great Tony Rayns recently stated in Sight and Sound magazine, that “Naruse lives”!

Lefteris Adamidis

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