Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme: Scattered Clouds (乱れ雲)

This year’s Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme is called ‘It Only Happens in the Movies?’ and it explores the theme of ‘encounters’. The films in the programme “include titles in which characters experience seemingly unusual meetings, plunge into unexpected circumstances and new environments, as well as collide with different generations, ideals and ideas – asking the question, does it really only happen in the movies?“.

Yesterday I went along to the Watershed in Bristol to watch one of the films in the programme: Scattered Clouds (Midaregumo / 乱れ雲) – also known as ‘Two in the Shadow’.

乱れ雲 © TOHO

乱れ雲 © TOHO

Here’s the summary from the Watershed website:

With a distinguished career of 89 films to his name, this ravishing melodrama turned out to be director Mikio Naruse’s last cinematic offering. When newlywed Yumiko is suddenly widowed following the death of her husband in a traffic accident, Shiro the driver responsible is so distraught and wracked with guilt that he begs for her forgiveness and offers her financial aid. Through the subsequent series of meetings and partings between the pair, bound by a sense of duty to each other, Yumiko finds herself conflicted and embroiled in an unexpected love story when she inadvertently begins to fall deeply in love with Shiro. A beautiful embodiment of Naruse’s masterful style, this is a timeless story of desire and escape.

And here’s a trailer (sorry, no subtitles):

Scattered Clouds was director Mikio Naruse‘s (成瀬 巳喜男) last film, made in 1967. Naruse was known for his ‘shomin-geki’ (庶民劇) or ‘working class dramas’ (interestingly, ‘shomin-geki’ is a pseudo-Japanese word invented by Western film scholars) and his films often have a bleak and pessimistic outlook on life. I must confess I don’t normally watch films like this and don’t generally like old films that much, and I did find this movie quite slow. But it was interesting, mostly because I had the chance to see Japan in the 1960s and to see how people were back then.

Scattered Clouds

Scattered Clouds

I haven’t seen a lot of Western films from the 1960s to be able to compare this well, but I felt the actors were quite similar to those one would see in an American movie of the same era. The main female character reminded me a little of Audrey Hepburn.

The story, although not exactly gripping, was interesting and touching. Of all the films I’ve seen so far in this Japan Foundation series I felt it probably fitted the theme of ‘encounters’ the best, as the story was all based around chance encounters leading to other encounters in a somewhat fatalistic way.

All in all, not my favourite Japanese film of all time, but an interesting insight into a Japan of the past, and not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

For more information about the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme please visit: www.jpf-film.org.uk

(Image sources: Japan Foundation, other)

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