Film Reviews, Short Review

晩菊 [Late Chrysanthemums] (1954)

3/4

Of the three great Japanese post-war directors of drama – Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Mikio Naruse – it is the latter who has seen the least critical acclaim and resurgence of interest in his work in the decades since his death. In some senses, it’s easy to see why; Late Chrysanthemums lacks the same aesthetic distinctiveness that makes Ozu’s and Mizoguchi’s respective styles so memorable. Still, this story about four aging geishas, two of whom are now struggling financially and in debt to one of their former colleagues, is an excellently performed slice-of-life drama. Naruse is a controlled, quiet director, guiding the audience through minor changes in detail, and although there are a handful of moments where the silent focus of his work seems to be foregone in favour of obviousness (an out-of-nowhere voiceover narration towards the final act is particularly off-putting), Late Chrysanthemums remains a solid, female-centred drama.

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