Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Never Known Love

Yearning (1964) - Naruse
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Reiko (Hideko Takamine) is a war widow who has devoted herself to building and managing her husband's small family grocery business. She takes care of her elderly mother-in-law and Koji (Yuzo Kayama), a young, loafing brother-in-low while keeping memories of her dead husband alive. But a brand new supermarket in the neighborhood stirs up her otherwise routine life. It prices out many of the neighbors' business and threaten Reiko's shop too. Her sisters-in-law with their well to do husbands are planning building a counter supermarket and force Reiko out. 'She's still young so she can remarry.' To complicate the matters, Koji confesses his love for her that she is the reason why he gave up schooling in Tokyo, came back home and been moping around ever since. Hurriedly married at 19 and fast widowed, Koji's talk of love stirs something inside her that she never truly experienced before.

Naruse paints the predicament of a middle aged woman in post-war Japan with great subtlety and grace. His frame within a frame shots are masterful in showing Reiko's mind state. But the real star of Yearning is of course, Takamine. With her subtle Japanese features and quiet mannerism, she embodies the classic Japanese beauty. A young widow bound by tradition and duty, her Reiko doesn't quite know how to react when faced with the declaration of love. It's a marvelous acting. The ending is quite melodramatic but all worth it for Reiko's reaction shots and a long tracking shot of her running in the backdrop of a beautiful Japanese northern town.