No Blood Relation resembles 'the experimental film,' here Naruse displays the same audacious exuberance of Jean Epstein ten years earlier... Cœur fidèle meets Naniwa Elegy meets Kubrick's The Killing... The camera dollies in, tracks like a missile in trajectory; two-fold result: spatial disorientation, and a sense of time's elasticity, of consciousness (being, experiencing, in-the-moment) as something set to beats.
The first worm's-eye shot — a barren tree in relief against a blanket of clouds rippling in the sky — poeticizes an emotion; this will come to be known as the style of Ozu.
A great soulfulness belongs to Shigeko (Hisako Kojima); she brings to mind Takamine the child-actress.
The importance of clocks: 4:55, 6:30... It takes the wife an hour and a half to get home from her department store job.
Panning insert-shots, camera movements in rhyme, the camera whirling so furiously it's as though no 'center' of the story can take hold, as though the film world and plot are only abstracted surfaces for the slide of the lens... It's perhaps the closest Naruse gets to F. J. Ossang... And the camera outrageously continues hurtling, practically slaps the faces of its subjects — really, the No Blood Relation camera moves beyond all proportion...
Strange arrangement of relationships — the man who was left by the mother of his child (oh, she went off to a career in Hollywood, a neither-here-nor-there Anna May Wong, probably, or something), who remarries another woman (Masako) — when he's sent to prison, Masako is courted by a tall-dark-handsome old-friend now back from Manchuria who acts out of love to attempt reacquiring the child kidnapped — assisted by the mother-in-law/grandmother, who leaves the original household to take up with the kidnappers. It turns out, the emotional center is Shigeko, the child...
The brilliant opening scene with the con dovetails into the wider and completely unbelievable premise, as though Naruse and screenwriter Noda set out to invent new domestic possibilities specifically, and to test a method of mad, rhyming repetitions which — albeit less anchored in reality — we won't see again till Pialat's Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble.
Film ends with a farewell to culprits. On one hand suggests that all parties have moved on, grown from their experience — on the other, foments an undertone of good riddance and relief, as the gangsters' ship sets sail for... America.
Previous pieces on Naruse at Cinemasparagus: