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When a woman ascends the stairs (Mikio Naruse, 1960)

A bar hostess tries to survive in the Ginko area in Tokyo without losing her dignity.

The film was an amazing watch. Although all the situations were set up in a classical structure, the payoff was totally unexpected and lends the story an incredible amount of realism. The cultural clashes between traditional and modern Japan are just as beautifully rendered as the dilemmas of Keiko: should she descend into prostitution, or live a poor life while at the same time disappointing her family that disapproves of her profession.

The film is perfectly cast with Hideko Takamine. I haven't seen her in films before, but I'll definitively watch out for her. She brings just the right amount of vulnerability, determination and gentleness to the character. It's simply a joy to watch her perform on screen. No wonder she was a star in Japan in the time.

I also liked the camera work: beautifully shot, yet unobtrusive. Naruse has managed to edit the images into a seamless flow, effortlessly moving the story through its various twists and turns. There is not as much formalism that I remember from Ozu or Kobayashi's films but the images feel light and must have looked amazing in a huge cinema.

My favorite scene is where Keiko learns that one of her potential lovers has been lying to her. While the facts are thrown in front of her, two little boys cycle around the two woman in the picture on a small bike with old tins attached. This simple direction gave the scene something incredibly desperate - a genius idea.

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