For Reel

Repast (1951)
September 12, 2012, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mikio Naruse

A single-mother relates a devastating epiphany to Setsuko Hara’s Michiyo: “A woman on her own can’t achieve much.” Director Mikio Naruse, whose work is often discussed in terms of his frequent feminist themes, examines the discontentment of a wife in a partnership that has long since proven satisfying in Repast. The situation in the household doesn’t seem particularly volatile, rather ridden into the ground by the predictability of routine (Naruse’s frequent use of the claustrophobic frame-within-a-frame perhaps best accentuates the lack of flexibility in their day-to-day living). While one might expect Ken Uehara – as Hatsunosuke, the husband – to be vilified, he is taken seriously if not apologetically. In a marriage without any affection, he chooses to seek romantic fulfillment in his flirtations with his young niece in a surprisingly bold subplot. Naruse, like Ozu, is fascinated with the minutia of domestic living, and the drama plays out so understated that one might make the mistake of thinking that nothing has happened at all. If not wholly successfully, partially due to a cop-out ending that shares similarities with many of the Hollywood pictures compromised by the Production Code, Repast is a quietly moving drama that affords its topic the complexity and nuance it deserves.