Apart From You | Naruse | 1933
Oh God, I loved this. Again, the plot is pretty pedestrian and predictable and yet, I found it much more interesting than say, No Blood Relations
. Maybe because it won me over very early on with that crazy opening sequence devoid of any of the main characters. We are thrown into the film via a chase scene on the streets full with disorienting segues to gags and then it cuts suddenly to the inside of a geisha house where also all we see is random scenes including a gorgeous surreal dream sequence. It's only after all this that we even get introduced to one of the major characters. Crazy but so fun.
I think the two things that really stand out for me about these early silents is Naruse's use of superimpositions to bring to life the inner lives and dreams of characters and his cutting technique (which I only started to pay proper attention to because of sdedalus's great essay on the editing in No Blood Relation
But first those lovely superimpositions. One of my favorite ones occurs really early on in the film where one of the younger geishas is fantasizing about eating a warm bowl of ramen. She cups her hands and a bowl of ramen magically appears. Even that scene ends in tragedy as she drops the aforementioned magical bowl of soup but it's a lovely moment nevertheless.
Another notable use of this is in the hospital scene where similar to the toy planes in Flunky, Work Hard
, all of Terukiko's happiest moments from her trip back home with Yoshio come to life for a brief moment filling her face with this gorgeous sense of wistfulness.
At least in these early films, Naruse often seems to use objects to cut between scenes and in this film in particular, he seems to use it frequently to draw parallels between characters and situations. A bottle or a bar of chocolate connects two different scenes. And that sense of disorientation I mentioned from the opening sequence continues in the rest of the film as well and I think it has a lot to do with Naruse's editing here wherein it takes a few seconds into a scene before we know where exactly we are and how much time has passed.
A scene where this type of rapid disorienting cutting works really really remarkably well is a scene in the geisha house where we are observing the actions taking place in two different rooms at the same time. The older geisha is with her patron drinking sake in one room while Terukiko and two other younger girls are entertaining a couple of patrons in the adjacent room. There are frequent extreme closeups to a rotating turntable and a film reel spinning on a projector. As Kikue takes out a razor either to stab herself or her patron, one of the geishas in the adjacent room breaks into a Spanish style dance. Her dance movements are intercut rapidly with the struggle between Kikue and her patron in the other room which is shot mostly in close-ups of their legs and their silhouettes on a room divider and their fight often resembles dancing. It's a great scene and a great setup for the violence that is to occur in the next scene.
I also love how that showy sequence is contrasted with the much more pastoral scenes in the train and Terukiko's hometown that seem so much more Ozu-like. It's also such a welcome respite from the crowded claustrophobia of the rest of the film. Also incredible is how well Naruse handles that scene at the end giving it just the right tinge of sadness and what could've been. The plot may be predictable but the quiet tragedy of it all still broke my heart. Just that look on Sumiko Mizukubo's face…