When a woman ascends the stairs

When a woman ascends the stairs

Onna ga kaidan o agaru toki

DVD - 2007 | Japanese
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A young widow with family obligations, Keiko is the madam of an upstairs bar in the exclusive Ginza district of Tokyo in 1960. As she approaches 30, she realizes that her life is at a crossroads: she must either go into business and open her own bar or marry.
Publisher: [New York, NY] : Criterion Collection, c2007
Edition: Widescreen
ISBN: 9781934121276
Branch Call Number: DVDF WHEN
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (111 min.) : sd., b&w ; 4 3/4 in. + 1 booklet (36 p. : ill. ; 29 cm.)
Alternative Title: Onna ga kaidan o agaru toki


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Dec 08, 2016

Many years ago I saw several Mikio Naruse films at a Japanese film fest and for years afterwards I thought I would be able to see more. No such luck, as for some reason Naruse films are rather rare in America. The Criterion copy is crystal clear, which is definitely not the condition of the films shown so many years ago. Naruse concentrated on films about the plight of women in Japanese society. Hideko Takamine is the main actress, and the supporting actor Tatsuya Nakadai can also be seen in the 9 and ½ hour masterpiece trilogy “The Human Condition.”

Jul 05, 2013

This is a 1960 Japanese drama directed by Mikio Naruse (成瀬巳喜男).
Hideko Takamine (高峰秀子) plays Keiko, a young widow approaching 30, who becomes a hostess in Ginza nightclubs to make ends meet.
Realizing she is losing her looks, she decides after talking to her bar manager, Komatsu (played by Tatsuya Nakadai 仲代達矢), that she wants to open her own bar rather than remarrying and dishonoring her late husband, to whose memory she is still devoted.
To accomplish this, she must secure loans from some of the affluent patrons who frequent her bar, but is unwilling to lead them on for the sake of money.
Meanwhile, a former employee, Yuri (played by Keiko Awaji 淡路恵子), has opened up a bar of her own nearby, subsequently taking away most of Keiko's former customers.
While Keiko is having lunch with Yuri and thinking she is doing well in her enterprise, Yuri reveals that she is deep in debt, and cannot afford to pay off her creditors.
Yuri tells Keiko of a plan to fake a suicide to keep her creditors at bay.
Keiko is shocked, however, to learn the next day that Yuri has actually died, and that she had either planned her death all along, or had merely misjudged the amount of sleeping pills to take.
She is again shocked to see Yuri's creditors dunning her family for money while still in mourning.
After Keiko starts throwing up blood and is diagnosed with an peptic ulcer, she retreats to the home of her family to recover after a hospital stay.
It is revealed that she must give them money to keep her brother out of jail, while also paying for an operation that her nephew, who was crippled by polio, needs in order to walk again.
After telling them she cannot afford to give them money as she must keep up appearances with an expensive apartment and kimonos, Keiko reluctantly agrees, realizing this will forestall any plan to open her own bar.
After returning to her bar to work, Keiko is made a proposal to by Sekine, a factory-owner, who Keiko entertains briefly.
When he turns out to be a fraud, she sets her sights on Fujisaki, a bank branch manager who is interested in her.
While promising to give her money after sleeping with her, he tells her he has been transferred to the Osaka branch, and cannot abandon his family.
Keiko is given a stern lecture by Komatsu, who loves Keiko but has made no previous attempt to express this due to his respect for her reverence for her dead husband and her resolve to not to sleep with other men.
Komatsu asks Keiko to marry him and open a new bar together.
She delines, however, and tells him that a marriage like this could not work since they know each other too well.
Still in love with Keiko, Komatsu quits the bar after she refuses his marriage proposal.
Keiko is then shown returning again for work, pretending to be happy.
It is quite interesting that this film was made in 1960 when all the Japanese worked hard so that they could achieve prosperity and happiness.
Indeed, Japan was to become the second largest ecomonic power after the States.
Keiko seems to be one of those hardest workers behind the scenes.


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