Mikio Naruse belongs with Ozu and Mizoguchi in the great classical tradition of Japanese cinema, though he remains almost unknown to American audiences. Like his famous colleagues, he specialized in melodrama, but his work rigorously denies both the spiritual transcendence of Mizoguchi and the human connections of Ozu, moving instead toward a sense of defeat and futility. Floating Clouds (1955), which was a huge popular success in Japan and remains his best-loved film today, tells of a young woman's determined love for a man she knows to be worthless; the film piles betrayal upon betrayal, but her hope is never shaken. Naruse's visual style is austere to the point of invisibility; his meanings are contained in his actors' faces and in his distinctive dovetailing of dramatic incidents, a narrative pattern that allows his characters no rest, but affords a strange peace in its constancy. In Japanese with subtitles.