The New York Times says Mikio Naruse's “When a Woman Ascends the Stairs” (1960), will soon be available on DVD in the United States. None of his other films are in print here, although you can find a few on video in various libraries, and some prints in film archives.
"Naruse’s characters, like the heroine of “When a Woman [Ascends the Stairs],” are... often individuals resigned to ultimate loneliness, whose families represent just one more financial burden in a world that constantly exploits and deceives them."
His films are dark, dark, dark, but somehow fulfilling, nourishing. He speaks to struggle and suffering without twisting an arm; A flash of lightning in a Naruse film is just what it is -- a sharp jab of light, power, and electricity.
I find him to be a true realist, and an enlightened feminist story-teller, far ahead of his time. He does exploit contrasts between domestic spaces and wide-open landscapes, sometimes shooting in Scope, an aspect ratio that squeezes, then re-stretches the photographic image in each frame.
I hope the Naruse boxed sets available in Europe will be released soon in the US.