The greatest shock of Sudden Rain comes when Ryotaro Namiki (Shuji Sano) declares to his wife Fumiko (Setsuko Hara) that she has no dreams. For those familiar with Hara’s typically incandescent screen presence this is less of an insult than pure blasphemy, though it’s all to director Mikio Naruse’s subversive point. A typically subdued, perpetually smiling presence in many Yasujirô Ozu films (a persona also on display in Naruse’s own Daughters, Wives and a Mother), Hara in Sudden Rain uses her trademark beatific grin as a kind of Noh-theater disguise masking a virulent emotional undercurrent. From first frame to last, Fumiko and Ryotaro engage in the most vicious verbal battles, hurling insults both subtle and bald-faced as they navigate the treacherous terrain of a marriage gone stale. Playing, in toto, like a Henry James adaptation of The War of the Roses, Sudden Rain‘s initial scenes are mostly relegated to intimate interiors, charting the husband and wife’s repetitive rituals with an incisive psychological precision. Naruse slowly expands his scope, introducing a succession of neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances inhabiting the couple’s Tokyo suburb. All are varied, lovingly detailed individuals who, in one way or another, comment on and drive the central husband/wife drama to its climactic sequence, a transcendent breaking point/resolution in which Ryotaro and Fumiko deliriously knock a child’s balloon between them. Particular attention should be paid to Naruse’s use of music in the film: the omnipresent piano score not only hints at one character’s renouncement of a lifelong artistic desire, it also hilariously blurs the line between diagetic and non-diagetic sound, revealing an unexpectedly playful side to a director far-too-often characterized as a stalwart pessimist.
- Toho Company
- 91 min
- Mikio Naruse
- Yôko Mizuki
- Setsuko Hara, Keiju Kobayashi, Akemi Negishi, Kyôko Kagawa, Chieko Nakakita, Shuji Sano
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