When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

Director: Mikio Naruse
Year Released: 1960
Rating: 2.0

One of the Ginza girls (or quasi-whores who 'entertain' salarymen after hours) in postwar Japan is faced with two choices: marry or start up her own bar and continue the exploitation. It's a little like a soap opera without the opera, and a lethargic picture at that: it leads its heroine to her own dead end so incredibly slowly it's like we're watching her suffer in slow motion. To its credit, it is meticulously composed (think Ozu) but the technique negates the drama, leaving only anguish. Naruse doesn't believe much in redemption, only lies, sweaty drunken businessmen and resignation - the woman may ascend the stairs, but inevitably there's someone waiting there to kick her back down them.