Review: The Approach of Autumn

In tenor, The Approach of Autumn recalls the stark, light-touch despondency of Morris Engel’s Little Fugitive. Both films are about the casual cruelties of childhood though with decidedly different cultural viewpoints. Where Engel ultimately relieves his wandering child protagonist of the mistaken belief that he killed his older brother, thus tipping the scales of tragedy back into precarious balance, Naruse puts his inquisitive, beetle-loving young lead Hideyo (abandoned by his deadbeat mother and living with disinterested, working-class Tokyo relatives) through a seemingly never-ending series of trials-by-fire that force him well beyond the point where he might retreat to anything familiar.

The Approach of Autumn

In tenor, The Approach of Autumn recalls the stark, light-touch despondency of Morris Engel’s Little Fugitive. Both films are about the casual cruelties of childhood though with decidedly different cultural viewpoints. Where Engel ultimately relieves his wandering child protagonist of the mistaken belief that he killed his older brother, thus tipping the scales of tragedy back into precarious balance, Naruse puts his inquisitive, beetle-loving young lead Hideyo (abandoned by his deadbeat mother and living with disinterested, working-class Tokyo relatives) through a seemingly never-ending series of trials-by-fire that force him well beyond the point where he might retreat to anything familiar. In contrast to Little Fugitive’s appropriately American insularity (where the external problem is “solved” through the return to a deceptive status quo), The Approach of Autumn typifies post-war Japanese cinema’s general sense of an enemy without, forcing its will upon a society resigned to inevitable and violent change. An extended sequence where Hideyo and his girlfriend Junko (tellingly a child of the upper class) take an impromptu journey to an industrialized beach features some of Naruse’s greatest Scope photography. Clearly the director has as much an eye for exterior as interior landscapes.

Score: 
 Cast: Nobuko Otowa, Jun Fujimaki, Kamatari Fujiwara, Yosuke Natsuki, Natsuko Kahara, Daisuke Katô, Seizaburô Kawazu, Hisako Hara, Kin Sugai, Naoya Kusakawa  Director: Mikio Naruse  Screenwriter: Ryozo Kasahara  Distributor: Toho Company  Running Time: 79 min  Rating: NR  Year: 1960

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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