In his highly idiosyncratic (and highly recommended) reference book, A Biographical Dictionary of Film, David Thomson says about Mikio Naruse's films, "I will see them one day," then confesses that he hopes to delay that day as long as possible so that there will always be a body of great work out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered. Only a true cinephile would think that one up. But Japan's Naruse, who's never had the name recognition of an Ozu, a Mizoguchi, a Kurosawa, happens to be one of my lacunae as well; I've never seen any of his 80-plus films.
That's about to change with the launching of "A Wanderer's Notebook: The Films of Mikio Naruse," a nearly semester-long series brought to you by the UW Cinematheque. Known for female characters who embrace the hopelessness of their lives, Naruse refused to put a smiley face on Japan's male-dominated domestic life. But I'm told the films aren't without a certain sly sense of humor. You can see for yourself this weekend (Saturday, Sept. 3, 4070 UW Vilas Hall, 7:30 p.m.), when Naruse's 1951 film Repast, about a stockbroker's wife who decides to accept the meager return on her marital investment, kicks things off.