Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #9 Repast  ★★★
Repast is a particularly laconic bit of semi-tragic melodrama, examining the unfulfilling life of one such unfortunate, an Osakan housewife named Michiyo (Setsuko Hara). After moving away from her family in Tokyo to settle down with her salaryman husband Hatsunosuke (Ken Uehara) in Osaka, she discovered that married life wasn’t a fantasy but a prison sentence of ceaseless, Sisyphean toil around the house. After Hatsunosuke starts flirting with her runaway niece, an exasperated Michiyo flees the modern metropolitan sprawl of Osaka for the traditional wooden buildings of her family’s neighborhood in Tokyo where she reexamines her seemingly purposeless life. A conspicuously deglamorized Hara—one of the crown jewels of classical Japanese cinematic beauty—has never seemed more downtrodden; there are shots where it’s almost hard to recognize her. Naruse subtly underscores her plight with his intuitive understanding of the geography of traditional domesticity: a repeated set-up in the film sees Hatsunosuke lounging on a tatami in the foreground while Michiyo labors in the kitchen in the background.
Even so, Naruse was never Ozu’s stylistic equal, and without his contemporary’s hermetic environments much of the film’s drama feels flat. The unexpectedly happy ending where the couple reconciles doesn’t help, either. It feels like it belongs to a less despairing work of working class ennui.