Scattered Clouds, director Mikio Naruse’s final film, plays like the melancholy last dance (to a somber tango accompaniment) of an extended evening of revelry now teetering on the fine line separating drunkenness and sobriety. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a hangover, though the heady haze the film conveys is part of its charm and very much in tune with its deeply saturated color photography, which constantly threatens (especially during an extended rainstorm sequence) to spill over its borders and run together in a kind of chaotic emotional release. These are the fragile aesthetic threads that parallel the tenuous boundaries separating widow Yumiko Eda (Yôko Tsukasa) from her potential beau Mishima (Yūzō Kayama). Theirs is the opposite of a meet-cute: Mishima accidentally kills Yumiko’s husband Hiroshi (Yoshio Tsuchiya) with his car, shattering the couple’s plans to move to America. The first half of Scattered Clouds compares and contrasts Yumiko’s hostile grief with Mishima’s sense of indebtedness (a trait particularly important to and inherent in Japanese culture). At first the widow understandably rejects Mishima’s attempts at atonement, but she slowly comes around and accepts a monthly monetary remuneration. Eventually, Hiroshi’s family legally revokes Yumiko’s married name and inheritance, so she retreats to a country hotel run by her sister Ayako (Mitsuko Kusabue). Coincidentally, Mishima’s employers have transferred him to the same town and so the duo begin a tentative courtship, though one that—befitting Naruse’s psychology-obsessed cinema—is infringed upon by a variety of external stressors. This reaches an apotheosis late in the film when Yumiko and Mishima become spectators to an accident eerily similar to the one that killed Hiroshi. It’s as if they step outside of themselves and gain an intellectual distance from a situation they have only observed through an up close and personal emotional prism. It’s the final obstruction that effectively stunts the duo’s peculiarly burgeoning love and it turns Scattered Clouds’s threatened explosion of feeling in on itself, resulting in a no less overwhelming, if deceptively calm implosion.
- Toho Company
- 108 min
- Mikio Naruse
- Nobuo Yamada
- Yūzō Kayama, Yôko Tsukasa, Mitsuko Kusabue, Mitsuko Mori, Mie Hama, Daisuke Katô, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Yu Fujiki, Tadao Nakamura, Naoya Kusakawa
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