Nubes flotantes = Floating clouds
19:00 Presentation: Santos Zunzunegui
20:00 Screening: Ukigumo (Floating clouds), Mikio Naruse, Japan, 1955, 123'
Sometimes the critic is faced with a paradox. Certain film-makers are elevated, at one time or another, to the rank of major author. This has always been the case throughout the history of reflection on cinematographic art. But this accolade has not always been accompanied by the necessary arguments to justify such a status. I am referring, of course, to those types of critical study that attempt to guide the viewer along paths that offer an accessible approach to the works of the respective authors. I will therefore not concern myself with all the cinematographic writing that is based on a non-transferable personal taste and is entirely unhelpful to the viewer of the films, and that is most ardently protected by the more or less justified prestige of the fashionable critic of the day. But even if we concentrate on the criticism that claims to seek “to understand how we understand films” or, more simply put, to try to explain how the film-maker (I use the synecdoche despite the fact that in cinema the individual is always collective) is capable of facilitating our access to the possible world that is built before our eyes, the problem persists. Among other reasons, this is because not all film-makers are equally “detectable” when it comes to describing their personal maniera, as long as we aim to avoid empty words and commonplaces.
To avoid beating about the bush and take the most immediate example, I would say that, as far as I am concerned, at least three directors have always given me trouble when I try to explain (to myself and to others) the reasons for the obvious fascination that I have for their films. They are: Howard Hawks, Eric Rohmer and Mikio Naruse. Of course they are authors (just to be clear, I use the term without any “film politics” connotation) sufficiently different from each other that, from the outset, we can assume that the three cases will not have a similar explanation. What I would like to invite you to do here is to join me on a tour of the reasons (better or worse, more or less interesting) that critics have offered to decide that Mikio Naruse (1905-1969, author of no less than eighty-nine films between 1930 and 1967, of which more than seventy have survived, making him unique among the Japanese directors of his generation) should occupy a prominent place in the list of great Japanese film-makers (an affirmation that I share) and, later, on a less highbrow level and without affectation, to find a way to suggest, from our modest perspective, how we might understand a little better the issues at stake in his films both in general and, in a very special way, in the singular film that is Ukigumo (translated into English as Floating Clouds).