Summer Clouds

Naruse usually dealt with “downtown” subjects, but for his first color and widescreen film, he turned to a rural setting with a lyrical, open-air feeling and a surprising use of natural images. The story, however, is Naruse all over, about a war widow, Yae (Chikage Awashima), who attempts to alleviate the stifling boredom of farm life by writing stories about her agricultural village for a Tokyo newspaper, in the process falling in love with a married journalist. Her stories are mostly about her own family, landowners made poor by postwar land reform; as Audie Bock has noted, the modernization that gives Yae a taste of freedom threatens her family's downfall. Nor is freedom all it's cracked up to be, as usual. Whether in city or country, the Naruse heroine is caught between a rock (the failed comforts of the extended family) and a hard place (marriage-in this case, someone else's).

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