Long regarded as one of Japanese cinema's preeminent geisha films, Mikio Naruse's Flowing (AKA Nagareru, 1956) was produced at a point in history when the traditional geisha (not whores, but asexual performers - the Japanese equivalent of <I>salonnères</I>, who entertained male clients with singing, dancing and instrumentation) found their way of life overshadowed and nearly extinguished by the encroaching popularity of prostitution. The narrative, as adapted from a book by Kodo Aya, concerns Rika (Kinuyo Tanaka), a widow whose dire financial circumstances force her to take a housemaid assignment in a failing Tokyo geisha house. Naruse reveals, through Rika's eyes, the mistress's (Isuzu Yamada) valiant struggles to keep the house from regressing into a brothel or a restaurant; he also introduces us to the individual geishas, who quarrel with one another, drink copious amounts of liquor, and struggle with anxiety over the increasing certainty that their centuries-old way of life will soon become extinct.
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