Small, but beautifully observed late-silent from Mikio Naruse, about a Geisha mom who’s aging out of clients at work, and worried about a High Schooler son at home who’s falling in with a bad crowd of delinquent youths. In fact, he’s been skipping class for weeks, partly thru a lack of direction and partly from the shame of being a single-parent son of a ‘Geisha-Slut.’ Worse, he’s got a bit of a crush on his mom’s best friend at work, a younger Geisha who finds her job degrading, but keeps at it as the sole earner for her parents & siblings. The film’s short running time doesn’t keep it from working up considerable interest, especially during a bittersweet sequence that takes the son & the young Geisha to her seaside hometown, where hope curdles with the tide; and in simply letting us see the mix of traditional & modern (read: Western) cultures clashing on every street corner & in the background of every location shot. Though a lack of tidy resolutions and an emphasis on character over plot, may limit the film’s appeal, you needn’t be a Naruse completest to find it unexpectedly moving.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Naruse, already a seasoned master after three years & a score of films, does have an Achilles heel in his technical armor: overusing fast dolly shots to Push-In to Close-Ups for all sorts of dramatic emphasis. In the ‘60s & ‘70s, he’d have gone Zoom Crazy! Too bad he didn’t toss one at the gang members with their leather jackets & slouch caps. Too cool, Daddy-O, too cool.