Yearning

This week the Gene Siskel Film Center launches a two-month retrospective on Japanese filmmaker Mikio Naruse (1905-'69) with two features: the 1952 melodrama Mother (see listings) and this late masterpiece (1964) about a war widow whose beverage store is being supplanted by a supermarket. The film clarifies why Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Yasujiro Ozu are all better known than Naruse: his turf is the lower middle class, and his chronically unfulfilled characters are typically unexceptional. Yet one can't predict what any of them will do from one moment to the next, and despite the seeming simplicity of this tragic story, its psychological complexity is bottomless. No less remarkable are the abrupt, unsentimental editing and the remarkable mise en scene (in black-and-white 'Scope), which shows the characters' increasing entrapment even as it moves from claustrophobic interiors to scenic wide-open spaces. In Japanese with subtitles. 97 min.

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