When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

The main tragedy in this is that Keiko's limitations are entirely artificial. They are imposed. They are consequences of a male dominated society, of objectification, of callousness. Her ability is implied throughout the film; she is portrayed as a woman who would be great at running a bar or doing more or less anything, if she just had funding. And her options for funding are entirely dominated and decided by men, all of whom want things from her they have no right to, no reasonable claim to. It's not even a business exchange. They simply want to own her.

As the film progresses, every moment of it reinforces this. Even when the women in her life take from her, they do so on terms defined by men. I want to call this a scathing depiction of the patriarchy, but the truth is, it's far too sad to be truly scathing. It's painfully sad. Naruse's reputation is apparently one of pessimism, and this film is no different. I usually would reject such a dark outlook, but it feels wholly justified here. In context of its era and out, this film captures something almost too difficult to overcome.

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