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Eclipse Series 13: Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women (Osaka Elegy / Sisters of the Gion / Women of the Night / Street of Shame) (The Criterion Collection) (2008)

Isuzu Yamada , Machiko Kyo , Kenji Mizoguchi  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Eclipse Series 13: Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women (Osaka Elegy / Sisters of the Gion / Women of the Night / Street of Shame) (The Criterion Collection) + The Life of Oharu (Criterion Collection) + Ugetsu (The Criterion Collection)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Isuzu Yamada, Machiko Kyo
  • Directors: Kenji Mizoguchi
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: October 21, 2008
  • Run Time: 299 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001CW7ZTE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,646 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Eclipse Series 13: Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women (Osaka Elegy / Sisters of the Gion / Women of the Night / Street of Shame) (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

This Mizoguchi quartet both anticipates and reinforces the director’s other comfort-women classics, like 1952's The Life of Oharu. If the Japanese master would tackle larger-scale works in the years between, these intimate dramas hold their own. Opening jazz refrain aside, Osaka Elegy strikes a melancholy chord in its depiction of an office worker casually degraded by the men in her life. At first, Ayako (Isuzu Yamada) resists the advances of her married employer, but when the capacity to support her deadbeat dad and ungrateful brother becomes unmanageable, she relents, despite her interest in a more appropriate (if equally judgmental) suitor. Also from 1936, the Kyoto-set Sisters of the Gion concerns a cynical geisha, Omocha (Yamada), who tries to provide a better life for her subservient sister, Umekichi (Yôko Umemura), even if she has to break several hearts--and even a few bones--in the process. What sounds like Tinsel Town-style melodrama plays out in a matter-of-fact, yet no less affecting manner in Mizoguchi's unsentimental hands.

In 1948's Women of the Night, the filmmaker returns to Osaka to focus on Fusako (Kinuyo Tanaka), a poverty-stricken widow who rebuilds her life after the war, then loses it all when her boss and sister betray her. Though Natsuko (Sanae Takasugi) attempts to make it up to Fusako, the situation only worsens once rape, syphilis, and pregnancy enter the picture (the liner notes indicate that Mizoguchi later dismissed this tough-minded movie as "barbarous"). His final film, 1956’s Street of Shame, centers on a Yoshiwara brothel that operates like any other retail establishment. The most painful strand concerns an aging courtesan facing an Oharu-like future. Overall, these women look like survivors rather than victims, but Mizoguchi leaves no doubt regarding his frustration with a social order that would create and punish such steely characters. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Product Description

Over the course of a three-decade, more than eighty film career, master cineaste Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff) would return again and again to one abiding theme: the plight of women in male-dominated Japanese society. In these four lacerating works of socially conscious melodrama two prewar (Osaka Elegy, Sisters of the Gion), two postwar (Women of the Night, Street of Shame) Mizoguchi introduces an array of compelling female protagonists, crushed or resilient, who are economically and spiritually deprived by their nation's customs and traditions. With Mizoguchi's visual daring and eloquence, these films are as cinematically thrilling as they are politically rousing.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Art, Missing Parts December 10, 2008
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THE SET: I'm finding there is a sort of "as is" quality to Criterion's Eclipse Series. It appears from the running times of these films that Criterion has used the same versions that came out on VHS in 1979. Critic Tadao Sato, who wrote on Mizoguchi's work in 2006, was able to view complete copies of the films. That being the case, I wonder why these films are missing a collective total of 75 minutes?

Here's the damage: 18 mins. missing from OSAKA ELEGY, 26 mins. from SISTERS OF THE GION, and 31 mins. from WOMEN OF THE NIGHT. Of the films collected here, only STREET OF SHAME is offered in its entirety. So, as I look at the films below, I have to view them as I do the Venus de Milo--parts are missing, yes, but the greatness of the art still shows.

OSAKA ELEGY (1936) Isuzu Yamada stars in this and in SISTERS OF THE GION. She had recently come out as a lesbian and was in a great deal of family turmoil. Mizoguchi harnessed that defiance in the two films; had it not seeped in, the films would have been relatively simple stories about the victimization of women. Instead, in OSAKA ELEGY, Yamada (as Ayako) is a skilled passive-aggressor in her own right. The men surrounding her are weak. She manipulates situations to her advantage, but all in the interest in restoring her family's fortunes. Inevitably, she is rejected by the loved ones she has saved from ruin, and is left to an uncertain future. In style, the film is naturalistic, yet full of eloquent tracking shots. If Truffaut was right that every tracking shot is a moral judgment, then there is real shock in the final two shots, which cut from a tracking shot alongside the homeless Ayako to a frontal shot in which she purposefully charges the camera, looking directly into the lens.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fallen women were his obsession December 3, 2008
By blue
This box set consists four excellent films of a great master, Mizoguchi who were obsessed with the stories of suffering women. Sometimes I have to agree with people who call him a sexist because of this, his favorite theme, with which he beautified the images of fallen women in so many of his films. However, I think his sexism was more complex than the simple belief of male superiority. As many Japanese men in those days grew up with witnessing their mothers and sisters sacrificed themslves for their husbands, sons and brothers, also most of Japanese women used to be forced to get married with men whom their parents chose, they usually loved their sons more than their spouses, you can see a strong tendency of oedipus-complex in many Japanese classic films. As a matter of fact, I see the similarities in films from Italy where boys are raised by their strong mothers(or is it just a stereo type?). Two of the films of this set are from pre-war era and considered his turning point works. And especially I loooove "Sisters of Gion" which is the story of two Geisha sisters, the older one is very traditional and the younger one is the very modern thinker, who believes Geisha is the profession to manipulate men, which is a bit unusual as Mizoguchi's heroines. Though I adore this character brilliantly played by young Isuzu Yamada, of course she has to fall as this is Mizoguchi's film, and at the end of the story, she gets hurt terribbly and says "Why does a thing like Geisha have to exist in this world?" And her sentiment reflects in some characters of "Street of Shame" which is Mizoguchi's final film. The young prostitute, who sacrificed herself to raise the bail money for his father, also believes she has to manipulate men. Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speaking For The Downtrodden November 8, 2012
Kenzi Mizoguchi is probably the least known of Japan's great directors. Over his lifetime he made over eighty films spanning the twenties through the fifties. Mizoguchi's fascination was with the women on the lowest socioeconomic rung of Japanese society:the geisha and the prostitutes.

Eclipse Series 13 explores four of his most powerful films on this subject and takes a look at how Japan was slowly changing its culture to meet the needs of these women. The set is dived into prewar and postwar films.

Osaka Elegy and Sisters of the Gion both from 1936 are both exceptional films. Osaka Elegy explores a woman's fall from grace as she resorts to a compromising relationship in order to alleviate her family's economic woes. Sisters of the Gion tells the story of two sisters, both geisha and how their outlook on their profession influences how they see tthe world.

The post war Women of the Night(1948) explores the common prostitute in a neorealist type production with non professional actors and rough camara wor. Street of Shame (1956) which would be Mizoguchi's last film takes am almost clinical approach to the daily life of five women working in the Dreamland brothel at a time when the government was tring to outlaw their profession.

The set brings together four films that would not ordinarily been available. For this they are to be commended. The editions look as good as this source material is likey to look and sound. There is some question about the running times of these films being altered but I'm not sure on that point since the films do appear to be complete. As is the case with the Eclipse series no extra features except liner notes are provided.

Well worth the time spent viewing.
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