Late Chrysanthemums (1954)

Late Chrysanthemums (1954)
  • 925
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release year: 1954 ()
  • Running time: 101 min
  • Original Title: Bangiku
  • Voted: 925

What is the life of a Geisha like once her beauty has faded and she has retired? Kin has saved her money, and has become a wealthy money-lender, spending her days cold-heartedly collecting debts. Even her best friends, Tomi, Nobu, and Tamae, who were her fellow Geisha, are now indebted to her. For all of them, the glamor of their young lives has passed; Tomi and Tamae have children, but their children have disappointed them. Kin has two former lovers who still pursue her; one she wants to see, and the other she doesn't. But even the one she remembers fondly, when he shows up, proves to be a disappointment.

1Haruko SugimuraKin
2Ken UeharaTabe
3Sadako SawamuraNobu
4Chikako HosokawaTamae
  • Outstanding by 9

    Sadness and nostalgia permeate Late Chrysanthemums, a 1954 film by Japanese auteur Mikio Naruse, now undergoing a retrospective of his long unavailable films thanks to James Quandt of Cinematheque Ontario and The Japan Foundation. Based on three stories by Fumiko Hayashi, Late Chrysanthemums tells the story of four retired geishas, now middle-aged, whose lives have become full of disappointment and regret. Performance are uniformly outstanding, particularly that of Haruko Sugimura, who starred in films by Ozu's Late Spring, Floating Weeds, and Tokyo Story among others. Sugimura portrays Kin, a former Geisha who has no children and lives only with her young maid who is unable to speak.

    She has become cynical about men and has turned her attention to money, particularly real estate speculation and loaning money to her friends, Nobu (Sadako Sawamura), Tamae (Chikako Hosokawa), and Tomi (Yuko Mochizuki), all former geishas. Kin's friends live in meager circumstances and complain about how Kin has become greedy and Tomi spends considerable time gambling to try and make ends meet. Both Tomi and Tamae are in the process of losing their children. Tamae's son is leaving to work in the coalmines in Hokkaido, and Tomi's daughter has decided to accept a marriage proposal from an older man. Both resist the change in their circumstances but come to accept it as inevitable.

    Two male friends visit Kin, Seki a former lover with whom she once contemplated double suicide, and Tabe (Ken Uehara), another lover who she looks forward to seeing again after many years. Her mood is upbeat but soon turns to resentment when she discovers that the two men are only interested in borrowing money. Naruse cuts between two extended sequences seamlessly as Kin confronts Tabe and Tomi and Tamae console each other over the loss of their children The dialogue is extremely natural and the characters are women of strength who, though their future does not seem bright, refuse to see themselves merely as victims. Late Chrysanthemums has the simplicity, humor, and stoic acceptance of life prominent in the films of Ozu and is a bittersweet reminder of the slow passing of time and the comfort that memory and companionship can bring along the way.

  • Fascinating Story by 10

    This film is about aging Geisha in post war Tokyo. Okin, played by the incredible Haruko Sugimara, lends money to two other ex Geisha, Tamae (Chikako Hosokawa) and Otomi (Yuko Mochizuki) and they resent the way she is somewhat smug about it. Tamae has a son, Otomi a daughter, who during the film announce they're leaving them while Okin, never a mother, gets visits from two men in her past who, it turns out, just want money from her. Its a compelling tale of what choices you make, what you do to get through life and who you're responsible and beholden to. Haruko Sugimara has always been in my eyes one of the greatest character actresses ever from any country and she plays the mostly unyielding, less than compassionate Okin with an air of superiority that makes you not like her, but at the same time almost envy her. At a time when great films were made by Ozu, Mizoguchi, Kinoshita and Kurosawa, amongst others, Mr. Naruse is right up there with him. If you have a region free DVD player, you should attempt to find the two Naruse box sets released in England. I think this film was a great character study of women who are in danger of being irrelevant. That they are really not makes this film a veritable masterpiece.

  • Changes by 10

    For me, "Late Chrysanthemums" was interesting not only because it was my first film of Naruse I completely enjoyed, but because it was technically as modern and innovative as his 30s work I've seen. This doesn't mean innovative editing in the way Godard would introduce it with "Breathless" in 1959, but quite the opposite.

    The editing was as fluent as in the best of Hollywood films from the 30s/40s, but at the same time incredibly fitting regarding the way he was telling his story. Unlike them, it never purposefully accentuated anything or tried to make itself "invisible" but, together with the cinematography, made me feel like I was traveling on a gentle stream, constantly feeling the waves beneath me, like a gentle stroke of the hand or the almost unnoticeable rocking of a cradle. In this sense the film was comparable to Ozu's and Mizoguchi's work, but somehow even more subtle.

    What was so modern was the fact that the editing seemed almost a character in itself, similar to the remarkable camera-work in Dreyer's Ordet (1954) or Vredens dag (1943) which is revealing us a deeper understanding of the film and its characters rather than simply showing them to us.

    I feel that Naruse's editing and cinematography are the most interesting aspects of his films, elevating the stories significance beyond the obvious. The wonderful sets and settings shouldn't be forgotten either! I found the story itself to be rather conventional.

    The narrative and its characters were introduced in a very interesting way, and I thought that the first half of the film was setting up a delicately ingenious spectrum of emotions and interrelations. Unfortunately the second half of the film and its resolution were rather didactic and and formulaic compared to the set up (though by itself it would have been perfectly fitting in any other - less complex - film). Somehow I felt that he failed a bit in trying to dissolve the many layers he had woven. Maybe he should have kept them intact. This criticism might seem a bit harsh to a viewer of this film, especially since the procedure is again reminiscent to the way Ozu dealt with the plot in his films. Unfortunately I haven't yet the feeling that Naruse was able to elevate the story and its characters in his films' conclusions in a similarly sublime fashion. The best efforts I have seen to date - Ukigumo (Floating Clouds / 1955) and Midaregumo (Scattered Clouds / 1967) - sustained the energy he had built throughout the narrative, while delivering poignant and resonant endings.

    This is already more than most director's are able to do, and in my opinion the basis for a real mastery of the cinematic medium. In this regard, and considering the resonance of the last two films I've seen by him, he may have already become one of my favorites.

    The only problem I have at the moment, is where I'm going to see more of his films on the big screen.

  • Good, but too slow for my tastes by 9

    A look at three geishas who are way past their prime. Now they look back on their pasts with fondness and bemoan their present. Kin (played by Floating Weeds' Haruko Sugimura) has sworn off men and has made a good living as a moneylender; everyone on the block owes her. The other two, Nobu and Tamae, wish they could land husbands, but are not foolish enough to believe they ever will. Meanwhile, their children - one has a son and one a daughter - are both about to get married (not to each other). Tamae is irked at how much prettier her daughter has become than her, and bitterly tries to convince her not to marry the man. Nobu's concerns about her son are more legitimate in nature, but they are also (understandably) self-serving. After her son leaves, she'll be alone. A bit into the film, two of Kin's former clients come looking for her, one a man so obsessed with her that he tried to get her to commit double suicide with him, the other one of her handsomest clients. Unfortunately, he comes for her money, not her love. The way I've described the film makes it sound unrelentingly depressing, but it's really not. Sad, but not fatally so. It's more bittersweet. Unfortunately, I only marginally liked Late Chrysanthemums. The story seems better when I look back on it, but it is very slow and dull. I actually nodded off twice during the film, and I wasn't at all tired before I started it. This is the kind of film that I can appreciate more than like; it reminds me very much of my reaction to a couple of Ozu's more famous films. 7/10.

  • Great Japanese film from the 50's by 8

    Naruse is typically considered one of the 3 master founders of Japanese film, the other two being Ozu and Mizoguchi. This is an interesting and honest film on the lives of retired Geishas. Whatever happens, when such a woman ages, and loses her charm and mystique? Well, for those who are interested, watch this film. One: Okin, is successful as a money-lender, but the other two have to borrow from her and are resentful. Okin doesn't have any children, but the other do. Okin finds out that her old love is coming to visit her, and is excited. Naruse is a master in subtle studies of his female protagonists' characters. Bangiku ultimately draws the viewer into the study of the questions of ones happiness, and one's life-worth. Very good film indeed.

1Ichirô Saitôcomposer
2Mikio Narusedirector
3Sanezumi Fujimotoproducer
4Fumiko Hayashiwriter
5Sumie Tanakawriter
6Toshirô Idewriter