Avalanche

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Dan Sallitt

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Jul 12, 2009, 9:28:52 PM7/12/09
to NaruseRetro, meke...@kerpan.com
Big news for English-language Naruse completists: there's a shadowy
online conspiracy to put English subtitles on all extant Naruse
films. I now have in my possession six Naruses that I've either never
seen or seen only without translation. Contact me privately for
details.

AVALANCHE (1937) didn't work for me. It looks like a prestige
project, adapted from a novel by Jiro Osaragi, consisting mostly of
conversations in parlors. The characters are fairly pure embodiments
of the film's theme, which is that the younger generation has acquired
knowledge but somehow failed to acquire understanding, and is
consequently throwing off social restraints and becoming a menace to
itself and to others. Naruse doesn't devise a good way to handle
these flat, message-bearing characters devoid of mystery. His visual
style is unusually fluid and beautiful here, evoking the space between
characters and stripping away decor for a minimalist effect. But the
poetic ambience has nothing much to attach to. The best scene is
probably the climax, which is close to horror in the contrast between
the protagonist's mentally unstable internal monologue and the
repeated closeups of his inexpressive face. Interestingly, the coda,
which feels like Naruse in its contrapuntal use of open air and
sunlight, is fragmentary, as if Naruse had snatched as much pleasing
footage as he could from the uncooperative script.

kerpan

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Jul 23, 2009, 8:39:48 PM7/23/09
to NaruseRetro
Close to 100% agreement here.

This is one of only 2 Naruse films (out of 60+ seen) that pretty much
fell flat (for me). Like Battle of the Roses, this felt very script-
bound. Naruse was kept so busy getting all the talking in that he had
very little time to _show_ us anything.
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