Mikio Naruse has the reputation as one of the early masters of Japanese film, however, his films are difficult to find with English sub titles. Criterion has only released one sound version, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960), which was my first opportunity to see a Naruse film. Flowing (Nagareru 1956) is known as one of his masterworks and has several of the most renowned film actresses of the era in the film. This includes Kinuyo Tanaka (Life of Oharu, Ugetsu, etc.), Isuzu Yamada (Yojimbo, Sister of the Gion, etc.), Hideko Takamine (When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, Twenty-Four Eyes, etc.), and Haruko Sugimura (Tokyo Story, Late Spring, etc.). The themes in this film about a woman, Ostsuta (Yamada) trying to survive without compromising herself and without a male benefactor while running a Geisha house mirrors those in Naruse's later When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, where a Ginza hostess struggles to survive without a male benefactor and without compromising herself. The fact that it is Geisha also calls to mind Mizoguchi's Sisters of the Gion, which is also about the struggles of sisters who are Geisha in Kyoto. Form what I have read, Naruse, is known to chronicle the struggles of lower and middle class people, especially the plight of women. His approach is different from Mizoguchi, who was also a chronicler of the woes of women. Naruse is difficult to categorize since he does not have a readily identifiable visual style like the sweeping crane shots of Mizoguchi, the "tatami mat" view of Ozu, or the dynamic movements of Kurosawa's camera. However, he was praised as an editor by Kurosawa and is known for masterfully frames the figures in his compositions. I think both of these observations apply to Flowing. I found this film more challenging than When A Woman..., in that the ending is much more ambiguous and inscrutable. It seems as if Otsuta, her daughter (Takamine) and the Geisha house is headed for ruin. But we have a boisterous group of students and household members gathering to appreciate the singing and shamisen playing of Otsuta, perhaps the last time such a gathering will be possible. There have been many suggestions for the meaning of the title: “the uprootedness of the characters, or to the river” or perhaps the movement of the film in short scenes or even to the “‘flow’ of money that circulates among the characters”.