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September 28, 2005

Every Night's Dreams, 1933

nights_dream.gifMikio Naruse's elegantly distilled early silent film Every Night's Dreams provides an archetype for the filmmaker's recurring themes: pragmatic, determined women who tenaciously hold onto their failing relationships, weak men who lead a life of increasing dependence on the women they mistreat, life stations that grow baser as characters paradoxically strive to improve their situation. Structured in the framework of a melodrama, the story chronicles the life of a popular bar hostess and single mother named Omitsu (Sumiko Kurishima) as she struggles to rebuild her fractured family after her chronically unemployed husband (Tatsuo Saito) unexpectedly returns. Stylistically, Naruse incorporates a series of innovative camerawork: temporal cross-cutting, elliptical montage, and recurring shots of disembodied framing (most notably, in a night time sequence of running legs) the serve, not only to provide a compact precision - and therefore, emotional tension - to the film's pervasive atmosphere of entrapment and existential stasis, but also to reflect the characters' sense of disorientation and economic instability.

Posted by acquarello on Sep 28, 2005 | | Filed under 2005, Shochiku at 110


This entered into the top tier of my favforite silent films immediately. Naruse already is clearly a cinematic master of the highest level by this point -- and Kurishima's performance is one of the best I've seen from the silent era. (Saito's atypically somber performance is also superb). Naruse is also already clearly showing his fascination with the manipulation of light and darkness. More than any other, I believe this characteristic lies at the heart of Naruse's style (something he clearly had -- despite plenty of critical commentary to the contrary).

Posted by: Michael Kerpan on Oct 05, 2005 9:26 AM | Permalink

The very stylish cross-cutting and disembodied legs were particularly eye-popping in this one. It's interesting to see both Naruse and Ozu being so experimental - and already so good at it - as early as the 1930s.

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 05, 2005 12:23 PM | Permalink

I think one might credit Shimizu as inspiring at least some of the experimentalism of his Shochiku colleagues. ;~}

Speaking of "disembodied legs" -- this motif is put to delightful (and very appropriate) use in Naruse's "Traveling Actors" -- a film I like more and more with each re-watching (not unusual for Naruse films, of course).

The editing in "Nightly Dreams" is absolutely virtuosic -- some of the most impressive I've run across outside Eisenstein.

I was really taken aback by the proto-zooms (tracking in and out) in this film, the first time I saw it. Somehow, these worked even better on the big screen (which surprised me a bit).

I really wish more of the work of Sumiko Kurishima had been preserved (and what little that there is left were more available). I see her as a major actress whose fame is understandably dimmed due to the un-seeability (or non-existence) of most of her work. It is really a treat to see her show up (temporarily emerging from retirement) in "Nagareru" (Flowing).

Posted by: Michael Kerpan on Oct 05, 2005 12:37 PM | Permalink

I was a bit dubious about the NYFF catalogue entry on Sumiko Kurishima for the film which said that she was a fading star at the time that Naruse approached her for the film and that it eventually revitalized her career. She still seemed quite young in the film not to have been in her prime.

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 05, 2005 3:51 PM | Permalink

Kurishima made her debut at the age of 7 in sort of fairy tale film (I think). She returned to acting around age 19 and worked steadily from 1921 to 1935, when she retired. She was coaxed back into the studio a couple of years later by Ozu -- for "What Did the Lady Forget" and then made one other film the next year. Then she retired again -- until Naruse coaxed her out of retirement again for "Flowing". At that point, she retired for good.

FWIW, here's her JMDB entry:


Posted by: Michael Kerpan on Oct 05, 2005 4:03 PM | Permalink

Matsuda has more information on Kurishima's career:


Apparently she served as the head of a dance school that dated back to the 1600s after her retirement from the screen in 1935.

Posted by: Michael Kerpan on Oct 05, 2005 4:37 PM | Permalink

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