Thursday, 24 October 2013

Floating Clouds - Ukigumo

Sometime ago I borrowed a copy of Hayashi Fumiko's novel Floating Clouds/Ukigumo, (translated by Lane Dunlop), from the library but had to return it before being able to finish it, recently I managed to catch up with the story again through watching Naruse Mikio's 1955 adaption of it, another aspect of note of this exceptional film is that Kihachi Okamoto was the assistant director, it would be interesting to learn more about how the two directors approached sharing the direction of this adaption. Initially one difference between that of the novel and the film is that in the novel, as far as I can recall, more space is given to Yukiko's time in occupied Indo Chine, in the film the scenes flash back to this time through the first part of the film, which I had thought would continue throughout the film but stops not long after it begins, although this is a period that is obviously something which deeply pre-occupies Tomioka's thoughts, and indeed the formation of their relationship, we only see a glimpse, although it is also revisited again at the end. Another aspect to the story is the deep intelligence of the narrative, at times it could be said that it operates within certain stereotypes, but as the film progresses it dispenses with conventional characterization and develops into a deeper psychological study of the two main protagonists. Tomioka, unusually instead of sinking deeper into further self destructive abandon with feelings of despondency and despair, develops a redemptive strain as Yukiko's illness worsens, the compulsive love between them expands beyond breaking point into a realm that transcends convention. One poignant crunch point of the film is when in heated argument they discuss the reading of the hero of Maupassant's Bel-Ami, and Tomioka asks Yukiko 'Why don't you fool men?', this question seems to crush any pretence of character that Yukiko entertains and taps into her raw emotive being. After this it seems that things can only go one way with their planned escape to Yakushima - 屋久島, Yukiko going on in sharing the same fate as Tomioka's wife. With the film version it could be thought that perspectives of the narrative in the book could also come from Tomioka, although as far as I can recall the book is solely, or perhaps predominantly that of Yukiko's. Perhaps Okamoto's contribution can be seen in the slightly more documentary aspects/shots of the film, which maybe aren't so common in Naruse's other films, the dancing in Iba-san's The Temple of the Sun God and the earlier shots of the matsuri.

Maybe the only slight, and usual gripe in the English presentation of the film is the nuances omitted in some of the subtitles.

3 disc boxset of Naruse at the BFI

above image from the film's wiki entry

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