Review: Street Without End

Street Without End

The classes collide in director Mikio Naruse’s silent melodrama Street Without End when the car driven by bourgeois mama’s boy Hiroshi Yamanouchi (Hikaru Yamanouchi) hits proletarian tea salon waitress Sugiko Shima (Setsuko Shinobu). It’s Sugiko’s ticket to the better life she’s always dreamed of—one seemingly attained by her movie actress roommate Kesako Nakane (Chiyoko Katori)—and after a romance-infused courtship capped by a proposal in the ominous shadow of Mount Fuji, Sugiko marries and moves in with Hiroshi, much to the distress of the latter’s mother (Ayako Katsuragi) and sister (Nobuko Wakaba). Hiroshi is weak in the face of his family and so Sugiko is left to fend for herself against their constant condescending taunts. What goes around comes around: Sugiko gains the upper hand when a distraught Hiroshi, having driven his car off a cliff, is hospitalized in critical condition. In one of Naruse’s greatest sequences, Sugiko confronts the mother and sister at her husband’s bedside, tearing into them with righteous stoical fury before turning her back on a heartbroken Hiroshi. The mélo becomes mythic thanks to Naruse’s expert sense of montage, the alternating images of the actors’ faces and bodies attaining an intense and overpowering rhythm that culminate in a devastating juxtaposition: Hiroshi’s hand falling limp as Sugiko steps into an impassive close-up. There’s a profound sense of finality to the sequence, befitting the fact that this was to be Naruse’s last silent as well as the film that, due to some broken promises and behind-the-scenes tempests, drove him to leave Shochiku studio for apparently greener pastures at PCL.

 Cast: Setsuko Shinobu, Akio Isono, Hikaru Yamanouchi, Nobuko Wakaba, Ayako Katsuragi, Shinichi Himori, Chiyoko Katori, Ichirô Yuki, Yukiko Inoue, Fujiko Matsuzono  Director: Mikio Naruse  Screenwriter: Jitsuzo Ikeda  Distributor: Shochiku  Running Time: 87 min  Rating: NR  Year: 1934  Buy: Video

Keith Uhlich

Keith Uhlich is a writer living in Brooklyn. His work has been published in The Hollywood Reporter, BBC, and Reverse Shot, among other publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle.

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