Hideko Takamine in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs ©1960 Toho Co., Ltd.

The Japan Foundation, Sydney & ACMI Present

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs


Mikio Naruse | Japan | 1960 | Unclassified (All Ages)

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Fri 2 Dec 2022


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Based on an original screenplay by Ryūzō Kikushima and often considered to be Naruse’s magnum opus, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs is a touching tale of social injustice and emotional turbulence during post-war Japan. Keiko, more commonly known as Mama, is an ageing hostess working in the glamorous Ginza entertainment district. She finds herself at a turning point: should she seek marriage, stay in a career that will vanish with her youth, or pursue a business of her own? As the men surrounding her turn out to be a string of bitter disappointments, Mama finds herself wondering whether she actually has any agency in determining her life.

The courageous female protagonist, portrayed by Hideko Takamine, represents the true embodiment of the conflicts of a woman longing to establish her independence in a male-dominated society, with her character being emblematic of all women whose stories we tend to forget.

Awards & Accolades

Included in Kinema Junpo Critic's Top 200 best Japanese films of all time.

... a heartbreaking study, to be compared with Mizoguchi's 'Life of Oharu'.

The Guardian

Format: 35mm, BW
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Source: ©1960 Toho Co., Ltd.
Courtesy: ©1960 Toho Co., Ltd.
Duration: 111 mins


111 mins


Unclassified (All Ages)

Contains mild sexual references and suicide


FREE (bookings required). Tickets on sale from Wed 9 November.

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Fed Square, ACMI

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Mikio Naruse: A Glimpse of Japan’s Unsung Master (2–4 Dec 2022)

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