The Song Lantern

With his exquisite use of shadow, lighting, and crane shots in the forest sequences of The Song Lantern, "Naruse is nearing the aesthetic limits of movies," critic and historian Shiguehiko Hasumi has written. "What would Josef von Sternberg say if he watched this scene?" Hasumi asks, suggesting that the master of chiaroscuro would be as astonished as he. A cruel tale set in the world of Noh theater, The Song Lantern has as its central character a typical Naruse male, the thoughtless adopted son of a great actor. He seeks out another legendary performer, and his ridicule of the diminished artist precipitates disaster. Rare in Naruse, the chastened young man seeks redemption, and finds it by teaching a special Noh dance to the young woman whom he has orphaned. It is in this sequence, set in a stand of windblown pine trees with sunlight streaming through, that Hasumi finds "the signature of the filmmaker Mikio Naruse engraved."

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