Late Chrysanthemums (1954)

Late Chrysanthemums (1954)

“All men are vampires, feeding on women.”

Four former geishas navigate life in middle age: moneylender Kin (Haruko Sugimura) tries to get her friends to pay back their loans, while also hoping that her married former client (Ken Uehara) might rekindle their affair; Tamae (Chikako Hosokawa) mourns the fact that her grown son (Hiroshi Koizumi) will be leaving soon for Hokkaido; gambling-addicted Tomi (Yuko Mochizuki) is frustrated to hear that her daughter Sachiko (Ineko Arima) has chosen to get married to an older man; and Nobu (Sadako Sawamura) runs a restaurant with her husband.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Feminism and Women’s Issues
  • Has-Beens
  • Japanese Films
  • Survival

Peary lists only two films by prolific Japanese director Mikio Naruse in his GFTFF: this title and Floating Clouds (1955) (though I consider his When a Woman Ascends the Stairs [1960] to be a Missing Title, and have reviewed it here). Late Chrysanthemums offers a simple yet stark look at the realities of survival for women who have spent their lives relying on the “generosity” of men, and are too old to ply their trade any longer.

Not a lot happens in this film other than watching the women interact with one another:

… with their grown children:

… and with former clients — one of whom (Bontarô Miake) tried unsuccessfully to kill Sugimura and commit suicide, yet has the temerity to come asking her for a loan upon his release from prison!

Late Chrysanthemums — presumably so-named because the chrysanthemum “represents longevity, rejuvenation and nobility in Japan” — would make a good (albeit depressing) triple bill with Mizoguchi’s A Geisha (1953) and Street of Shame (1956), also about the challenges of survival for women in patriarchal post-WWII Japan.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine performances by the leads

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a look. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Late Chrysanthemums (1954)

  1. Rewatch. Agreed; not must-see though it’s a personal recommendation.

    When I lived in Tokyo, I had a unique opportunity to see quite a few Naruse films. Obviously, they were not (at the time) as widely known in the US as, say, the films of Kurosawa or even Ozu. I became rather fond of the director’s work and found his films to be satisfyingly sympathetic to Japanese women. Overall, his films are the equivalent of the ‘woman’s picture’ of the ’40s-’50s here in the US though they are character-based and more often along the lines of something like ‘Stella Dallas’, as opposed to plot-based melodramas.

    I would agree that ‘When a Woman Ascends the Stairs’ is a missing Peary title and a standout Naruse film that should be seen by film fanatics. Those who take to it may very likely want to see more of Naruse’s work.

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