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 was a Japanese filmmaker, screenwriter and producer who directed some 89 films spanning the period 1930 (towards the end of the silent period in Japan) to 1967.

Naruse is known for imbuing his films with a bleak and pessimistic outlook. He made primarily shomin-geki (working-class drama) films with female protagonists, portrayed by actresses such as Hideko Takamine, Kinuyo Tanaka, and Setsuko Hara. Because of his focus on family drama and the intersection of traditional and modern Japanese culture, his films are frequently compared with the works of Ozu. His reputation is just behind Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu in Japan and internationally; his work remains less well known outside Japan than theirs.

Akira Kurosawa called Naruse's style of melodrama, "like a great river with a calm surface and a raging current in its depths".

Biographical information

Mikio Naruse was born in Tokyomarker, Japanmarker, in 1905. For a number of years he worked at the Shochiku film company under Shiro Kido as a property manager and later as an assistant director. He was not permitted to direct a film at Shochiku until 1930, when he made his debut film, Mr. and Mrs. Swordplay (Chanbara fūfū).

Naruse's earliest extant work is Flunky, Work Hard (Koshiben gambare, also known as Little Man Do Your Best) from 1931, where he combined melodrama with slapstick, trying to meet the demands set by Shochiku's Kamata studio, who wanted a mix of laughter and tears. In 1933, he quit Shochiku, and began working for Photo-Chemical Laboratories (later known as Toho).

His first major film: Wife! Be Like a Rose! (1935) (Tsuma yo Bara no Yo ni). It won the Kinema Junpo, and was the first Japanese film to receive theatrical release in the United States (where it was not well-received). The film concerns a young woman whose father deserted his family many years before for a geisha. As so often in Naruse's films, the portrait of the "other woman" is nuanced and sympathetic: it turns out, when the daughter visits her father in a remote mountain village, that the second wife is far more suitable for him than the first. The daughter brings her father back with her in order to smooth the way for her own marriage, but the reunion with the first wife - a melancholy poetess - is disastrous: they have nothing in common, and the father returns to wife number two.

In the war years, Naruse went through a slow breakup with his wife Sachiko Chiba (who had starred in Wife! Be Like a Rose!). Naruse himself claimed to have entered a period of severe depression as a result of this. The postwar period saw him work in collaboration with others more often, less frequently writing his own scripts. Notable successes included Mother (1952) (Okasan), a realistic look at family life in the postwar period, which received theatrical distribution in France, and 1955's Floating Clouds (Ukigomo), a doomed love story based (like many of Naruse's films) on a novel by Fumiko Hayashi.

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) (Onna ga kaidan o agaru) tells the story of an aging bar hostess trying to adapt to modern times. The film is notable for having almost no close-up shots or exterior scenes. Scattered Clouds (1967) (Miidaregumo) (a.k.a. Two in the Shadow) was his last film, and is regarded as one of his greatest works. A tale of impossible love between a widow and the driver who accidentally killed her husband, it was made 2 years before his death.


Naruse is known as particularly exemplifying the Japanese concept of mono no aware, the awareness of the transience of things, and a gentle sadness at their passing.

Naruse's films contain very simple screenplays, with minimal dialogue, unobtrusive camera work and low-key production design. Earlier films employ a more experimental, expressionist style, but he is best known for the style of his later work: deliberately slow and leisurely, designed to magnify the everyday drama of ordinary Japanese people’s trials and tribulations, and leaving maximum scope for his actors to portray psychological nuances in every glance, gesture and movement.

Naruse filmed economically. He often used money- and time-saving techniques that other directors shunned, such as shooting each actor delivering his or her lines of dialogue separately, and then splicing them together into chronological order in post-production (this reduced the amount of film wasted with each retake, and allowed a dialogue scene to be filmed with a single camera). Perhaps unsurprisingly, money is itself a major theme in these films, possibly reflecting Naruse's own childhood experience of poverty: Naruse is an especially mordant observer of the financial struggles within the family (as in Ginza Cosmetics, 1951, where the female protagonist ends up supporting all her relatives by working in a bar, or A Wife's Heart, 1956, where a couple is swindled out of a bank loan by the in-laws).


  • Hard Times (Fukeiki Jidai, 1930)
  • Love Is Strength (Ai Wa Chikara Da, 1930)
  • Pure Love (Junjo, 1930)
  • A Record of Shamless Newlyweds (Oshikiri Shinkonki, 1930)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Swordplay (Chambara Fufu, 1930)
  • The Strength of a Moustache (Hige No Chikara, 1931)
  • Under the Neighbours' Roof (Tonari No Yane No Shita, 1931)
  • Fickleness Gets on the Train (Uwaki Wa Kisha Ni Notte, 1931)
  • Flunky, Work Hard! (Koshiben Gambare, 1931)
  • Be Great! (Eraku Nare, 1932)
  • Moth-eaten Spring (Mushibameru Haru, 1932)
  • Not Blood Relations (Nasanu Naka, 1932)
  • Apart from You (Kimi to Wakarete, 1933)
  • Two Eyes (Sobo, 1933)
  • Every Night Dreams (Yogoto no yume, 1933)
  • A Man with a Married Woman's Hairdo (Boku No Marumage, 1933)
  • Street Without End (Kagirinaki Hodo, 1934)
  • The Girl In The Rumor (Uwasa no musume, 1935)
  • Wife! Be Like a Rose! (Tsuma yo bara no yo ni, 1935)
  • Morning's Tree-Lined Street (Asa no namikimichi, 1936)
  • A Woman's Sorrows (Nyonin Aishu, 1937)
  • Avalanche (Nadare, 1937)
  • Kimiko (1937)
  • Tsuruhachi Tsurujiro (1937)
  • Sincerity (Magokoro, 1939)
  • The Whole Family Works (Hataraku ikka, 1939)
  • Travelling Actors (Tabi Yakusha, 1940)
  • Hideko the Bus-Conductor (Hideko no Shasho-San, 1941)
  • A Face from the Past (Natsukashi No Kao, 1941)
  • Mother Never Dies (Haha Wa Shinazu, 1942)
  • The Song Lantern (Uta Andon, 1943)
  • This Happy Life (Tanoshiki Kana Jinsei, 1944)
  • The Way of Drama (Shibaido, 1944)
  • A Tale of Archery at the Sanjusangendo (Sanjusangendo Toshiya Monogatari, 1945)
  • Until Victory Day (Shori No Hi Made, 1945)
  • Both You and I (Ore Mo Omae Mo, 1946)
  • Spring Awakens (Haru No Mezame, 1947)
  • Delinquent Girl (Furyo Shojo, 1949)
  • Angry Street (Ikari No Machi, 1950)
  • White Beast (Shiroi Yaju, 1950)
  • Conduct Report on Prof. Ishinaka (Ishinaka Sensei Gyojoki, 1950)
  • Dancing Girl (Maihime, 1951)
  • Ginza Cosmetics (Ginza Gesho, 1951)
  • Repast (Meshi, 1951)
  • Mother (Okasan, 1952)
  • Lightning (Inazuma, 1952)
  • Okuni and Gohei (Okuni to Gohei, 1952)
  • Husband And Wife (Fufu, 1953)
  • Wife (Tsuma, 1953)
  • Older Brother, Younger Sister (Ani Imoto, 1953)
  • Sound of the Mountain (Yama No Oto, 1954)
  • Late Chrysanthemums (Bangiku, 1954)
  • The Kiss, Part III: Women's Ways (Kuchizuke, Part 3: Onna Doshi, 1955)
  • Floating Clouds (Ukigumo, 1955)
  • Sudden Rain (驟雨 Shūu, 1956)
  • A Wife's Heart (Tsuma No Kokoro, 1956)
  • Flowing (Nagareru, 1956)
  • Untamed Woman (Arakure, 1957)
  • Herringbone Clouds (Iwashigumo, 1958)
  • Anzukko (1958)
  • Whistling in Kotan (Kotan No Kuchibue, 1959)
  • When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (Onna Ga Kaidan O Agaru Toki, 1960)
  • Daughters, Wives and a Mother (Musume Tsuma Haha, 1960)
  • Evening Stream (Yoru No Nagare, 1960)
  • Approach of Autumn (Aki Tachinu, 1960)
  • As a Wife, As a Woman (Tsuma Toshite Onna Toshite, 1961)
  • Lonely Lane (A Wanderer's Notebook aka Horoki, 1962)
  • The Wiser Age (1962)
  • A Woman's Life (Onna No Rekishi, 1963)
  • Yearning (Midareru, 1964)
  • The Stranger Within a Woman AKA The Thin Line(Onna No Naka Ni Iru Tanin, 1966)
  • Hit and Run (Hikinige aka Moment of Terror, 1966)
  • Scattered Clouds (Midaregumo aka Two in the Shadow, 1967)


  1. Catherine Russell The Cinema of Naruse Mikio, 2008, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, p1

  • Bock, Audie. Japanese Film Directors. Kodansha America, 1985 (reprint). ISBN 0-87011-714-9.
  • Bock, Audie. Naruse: A Master of the Japanese Cinema (monograph). Japan Society Gallery, December 1985. ISBN 0-86559-067-2.

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