The late Japanese moviemaker Mikio Naruse directed 89 films between 1930 and 1967. Over the next several weeks, the Northwest Film Forum on Capitol Hill will showcase but a mere sliver of Naruse’s prolific output.
Just ten films will be screened in the Forum’s retrospective, “Weathering the Storm: The Enduring Cinema of Mikio Naruse.” Those ten, however, are all rarities. None of them is available on DVD, and of the handful that were once released in VHS format, all are out of print. Secondhand copies of Naruse films fetch astoundingly high prices at online retailers; the director’s excellent and heart-wrenching 1952 drama Mother is available to rent at Seattle’s Scarecrow Video, but only if viewers fork over a $150 deposit.
In his lifetime, Naruse created films that were popular with critics and audiences alike. Why, since then, have his works languished in obscurity? The answers are almost as elusive as prints and screenings of the movies themselves.
On the surface, Naruse’s concerns and choices of subject matter (the disintegration of the family unit; the plight of the poor) seem to mirror those of his much better known contemporary Yasujiro Ozu.
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