A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sound of the Mountain (Mikio Naruse, 1954)

So Yamamura and Setsuko Hara in Sound of the Mountain
Shingo Ogata: So Yamamura
Kikuko: Setsuko Hara
Shuichi: Ken Uehara
Yasako: Teruka Nagaoka
Fusako: Chieko Nakakita
Kinuko: Rieko Sumi
Hideko Tanizaki: Yoko Sugi

Director: Mikio Naruse
Screenplay: Yoko Mizuki
Based on a novel by Yasunari Kawabata
Cinematography: Masao Tamai
Music: Ichiro Saito

Watched on Turner Classic Movies

I find that numerous critics have observed something I sensed while watching Mikio Naruse's Sound of the Mountain: that it feels like a kind of sequel to, or even reaction against, such films by Yasujiro Ozu as Late Spring (1949) and An Autumn Afternoon (1963) that center on the arrangement of the marriage of a young woman. In both of the Ozu films I mention, the marriage is so much the event toward which the plot moves that we never even see the potential bridegroom -- as if just being married were the point. I know that's doing a disservice to the great artistry of Ozu, whose interest is always on relationships and not outcomes, and that Ozu was working in the long tradition of romance and comedy, in which marriage is what the plot is there to move toward, but I have to feel that Naruse is making a direct riposte to that tradition. Why else cast Setsuko Hara, the "Noriko" of three of Ozu's films -- Late Spring, Early Summer (1951), Tokyo Story (1953) -- that center on unmarried or widowed women? In Sound of the Mountain, Hara is Kikuko, an unhappily married woman, whose husband, Shuichi, has taken a mistress and frequently comes home drunk -- or not at all. The couple lives with his parents, to whom she devotes herself almost to the point of servitude. And when their daughter, Fusako, arrives with her small children, having separated from her own husband, Kikuko's household duties increase. Fortunately, she has a sympathetic confidant in her father-in-law, Shingo, who is clearly more than a little in love with Kikuko, and tries to sort things out for her, even to the point of confronting his son's mistress to try to break up that relationship. But things are not so easily resolved in this state of extramarital affairs. Kikuko takes a quietly devastating revenge on her husband by having an abortion -- something that Shuichi's mistress, who is also carrying his child, refuses to do. This is a film of great sadness, a mood that Ichiro Saito's film score does much to emphasize without ever turning lugubrious.  

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