When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)
May 21, 2021 10:13 AM - Subscribe

A middle-aged bar hostess, constantly in debt, is faced with numerous social constraints and challenges posed to her by her family, customers and friends.

“Step by Step: Hideko Takamine in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs,” Moeko Fujii, The Criterion Collection, 21 May 2021
“I’ve been an actress for a hundred years,” Takamine wrote in 1954, when she was thirty. “Photographers took every face I could call my own. Look, I no longer have a face.” I think about that last sentence whenever I watch any of the seventeen films she made with the director Mikio Naruse, most of which feature postwar women fighting for a sense of self at the brink of destitution. Some stars make you want to slip on their style—buy a dress, cut a pose. Look, I no longer have a face. Takamine makes me check myself in the bathroom afterward, to see if I too have lost my face.

As a young girl, I’d watch her and hear the titles of Naruse’s films as I fell asleep: Lightning, Yearning, Flowing, Floating Clouds. Which brings me to my teenage notes, from my first viewing of Naruse’s When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. Exclamation marks in pencil. More exclamation marks around the name Takamine. Then: “What is going on with Naruse and feet?”
Cf. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs:They Endure,” Phillip Lopate, Ibid., 19 February 2007
posted by ob1quixote (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
God this is such a good movie.
posted by Hypatia at 4:58 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


I saw this on vhs like two decades ago and this is an amazing movie. Naruse is incredible in his meticulous, unsentimental portraits if working class women.
posted by johnasdf at 6:02 PM on May 22


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