dir. Mikio Naruse

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Three of Japan's greatest actresses — Kinuyo Tanaka, Isuzu Yamada and Hideko Takamine — star in Mikio Naruse's tale of a traditional geisha house struggling to survive in the modern era.
Phillip Lopate ranks Flowing as one of Naruse's three greatest masterpieces, along with Late Chrysanthemums and Floating Clouds. Naruse gathered an ensemble of great veteran actresses for the superb Flowing; it's hard to imagine a trio more impressive than Hideko Takamine, Kinuyo Tanaka, and Isuzu Yamada. Hired as a maid by the proud mistress (Yamada) of a failing geisha house, Rika (Tanaka) quickly comes to realize that the mistress is deep in debt, and that her desperate attempts to save her establishment are in vain. The maid's clear-eyed comprehension of her employer's dilemma, as traditional geisha establishments are closing or becoming bordellos to survive in a rapidly changing Tokyo, contrasts with the blind naïveté of the samisen-playing mistress and her emotionally deprived daughter (Takamine). "A delicate, absorbing chamber work. . . [the final minutes are] as modern, as contrapuntally abstract, as Resnais' Muriel or the finale of Antonioni's The Passenger" (Lopate).