Directed by Mikio Naruse • 1960 • Japan
Starring Hideko Takamine, Masayuki Mori, Reiko Dan
WHEN A WOMAN ASCENDS THE STAIRS might be Japanese filmmaker Mikio Naruse’s finest hour, a delicate, devastating study of a woman, Keiko (played heartbreakingly by Hideko Takamine), who works as a bar hostess in Tokyo’s very modern postwar Ginza district, who entertains businessmen after work. Sly, resourceful, but trapped, Keiko comes to embody the conflicts and struggles of a woman trying to establish her independence in a male-dominated society. WHEN A WOMAN ASCENDS THE STAIRS shows the largely unsung yet widely beloved master Naruse at his most socially exacting and profoundly emotional.