Floating Clouds (Ukigumo)

According to Audie Bock, author of “Japanese Film Directors”:
“Just in the last decade, a broad selection of the works of Naruse Mikio has come to light, and a new master of the Japanese cinema has emerged. His directing career spanned the end of the silent film era in the early 1930s, the difficult war years, and the rise of a whole new generation and style of filmmaking in the 1960s. Throughout, Naruse developed, retained and refined his own style and his own world view.
“Naruse's work, like that of his contemporaries Mizoguchi Kenji (1898-1956) and Ozu Yasujiro (1903-63), received its greatest critical acclaim in the two ‘golden ages' of the Japanese film, the mid-1930s and the mid-1950s. His sophisticated talkie comedy Tsuma yo bara no yo ni (Wife! Be Like A Rose!), which won the Kinema jumpo (Motion Picture Times) magazine Best One award for 1935, even made its way to New York under the release title Kimiko, one of the very first Japanese films to be shown abroad. Naruse appeared at the top of the polls again in 1955 with a tragedy, Ukigumo (Floating Clouds), an adaptation of poetess-novelist Hayashi Fumiko's intense psychological study of a young woman's determined devotion to a weak-willed, barely responsive man. Naruse's colleague Ozu named this film as one of the two he himself could never have made....
“If the films of Ozu offer the possibility of contentment through the acceptance of life as it is, and the films of Mizoguchi offer suggestions of transcendental peace and forgiveness, the films of Naruse offer no comfort. His protagonists take full personal responsibility for their actions, and they almost invariably proceed knowingly on a course of self-destruction. The Naruse film becomes not a polemic against the oppression of women in society, but through women an observation on the inevitability of betrayal by life itself. That his women go on fighting, clinging to an illusion of free will, that Naruse himself went on fashioning stories of disappointment reveals the deepest and most honest kind of attachment to the pathos and absurdity of the human struggle. The lesson of the Naruse film is that life will always be disappointing, but our compulsion to go on doing is in itself awe-inspiring - whether for its foolhardiness or its courage, it is the human condition and the first inspiration of the artist.”

This page may by only partially complete. For additional information about this film, view the original entry on our archived site.