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The Life of Oharu (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1952)

Toshiro Mifune , Kinuyo Tanaka , Kenji Mizoguchi  |  NR |  Blu-ray
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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The Life of Oharu (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + Sansho the Bailiff (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + The Ballad of Narayama (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Product Details

  • Actors: Toshiro Mifune, Kinuyo Tanaka
  • Directors: Kenji Mizoguchi
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: July 9, 2013
  • Run Time: 137 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,217 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Life of Oharu (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]" on IMDb

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital film restoration, with uncompressed monaural
  • Introductory commentary by scholar Dudley Andrew
  • Mizoguchi's Art and the Demimonde, an illustrated audio essay
  • Kinuyo Tanaka's New Departure, a 2009 film by Koko Kajiyama
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Gilberto Perez

  • Editorial Reviews

    A peerless chronicler of the soul who specialized in supremely emotional, visually exquisite films about the circumstances of women in Japanese society throughout its history, Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugetsu) had already been directing movies for decades when he made THE LIFE OF OHARU in 1952. But this epic portrait of an inexorable fall from grace, starring the incredibly talented Kinuyo Tanaka (The Ballad of Narayama) as an imperial lady-in-waiting who gradually descends to street prostitution, was the movie that gained its director international attention, ushering in a new golden period for him.

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars We don't have the right to love one another June 27, 2013
    'Life of O Haru' is a very characteristic movie for Kenji Mizoguchi with its theme of forbidden love, its criticism of social conventions and its realistic and incisive description of the fate of women, the behavior of males and the effect of being sincere in a society, here a feudal one.

    In this feudal society, love (sexual intercourse) between a member of the nobility and a commoner is a transgression of the barrier between the social classes. When it is discovered, like in this movie, it is disastrous for the lover, the girl and her family. A real nightmare begins for the girl O Haru. Her beauty and sincerity are exploited to the bone, by brothel keepers, by those who need a male heir to ensure the continuation of the political and social power of a clan or by males (also a member of her family) in a position of 'strength '.

    The choice of the scenes, of which some are extremely painful, and the angles of the shots illustrate masterfully the balance of power in a society run by absolute power (the shogun), a world without feelings and mercy. As always with K. Mizoguchi, his direction of the actors is admirable; not one false note.
    This movie is a true masterpiece. A must see.
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    64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars The Top Tier of Japanese Cinema April 23, 2013
    I don't usually write reviews, but I saw that this had a rating much lower than it should - and on further inspection found that the negative reviews were of the quality of an old imported DVD.

    So, to start with: this DVD is being released by the Criterion Collection, who always do an astounding job of presenting films on DVD and Blu-Ray. Please, please, please, do not worry anymore about the quality of the DVD. It will be great.

    As for the film itself, it's another heartbreaking but beautiful film by Mizoguchi, and a sort of spiritual sister to his other two masterpieces "Sansho the Bailiff" and "Ugetsu". I don't want to go into a synopsis, so I'll just leave by saying that if you like human dramas presented with a beautiful touch, you'll love this film.
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    17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars No One Can Take Away your Dignity - But Yourself August 8, 2013
    During the 1990's, both my parents took a whirlwind tour throughout the Far East. When they returned, I asked them what they thought of Japan. My dad adored the country...but my mother told me this was her least favorite destination. "Why?" I inquired. My mother responded that Japan was the most patriarchal culture of all the ones she visited...and she certainly deplored any (mis)treatment of women as second class citizens.

    The director Kenji Mizoguzhi obviously shared my mom's sentiments...and this theme permeates most of his films. In thinking about the director's life, he was deeply disturbed that due to failing finances, his sister was literally sold to be a geisha...yet she helped him greatly in his early career - sacrificing herself for a male of the family. And he never allowed himself to forget that moral debt.

    Now to the film itself. Except for the framing sequence, Oharu starts her adult life as a valuable court attendant for the Imperial Court. Alas, she allows herself to be seduced by a man of lower class and even falls for him. This relationship violates feudal standards so much that it triggers a disturbing future of humiliations, one after another....from being a concubine forced to bear a child for a lord and then discarded, to becoming a high priced courtesan, and (near the end of the film) to becoming an aging street walker begging for clients. One of her unhappy fates is to be rewarded with a glimpse of her son ascending - who is a powerful lord - yet be prevented from meeting him. The hidden subtext of sex is common throughout the series of vignettes...since it is sex that starts the downward spiral.
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    7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Another Mizoguchi masterpiece ~ September 30, 2013
    Mizoguchi directed many amazing films. Luckily Criterion has been able to acquire the distribution rights to several of his films. Life of Oharu has previously been widely unavailable except from certain 'ahem' boderline DVD distributors. The previous releases suffered from terrible transfer which looked like a VHS to DVD machine was used.

    Gladly Criterion has brought their usual restoration quality to this gem. The picture quality on both the DVD and Blu-Ray is amazing. The Blu-Ray version was the first version I watched (thanks to my local library picking up pretty much every Criterion release).

    This version also contains several extras: commentary, Mizoguchi's Art and the Demimonde: an illustrated audio essay, Kinuyo Tanaka's New Departure - a 2009 film by Koko Kajiyama and a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Gilberto Perez. The extras are not quite as eye popping as the horde of extras with Ugetsu, but I can't really complain.

    This film, like many Mizoguchi films, deals with the theme of a 'fallen woman'. Like several previous films, the main female character embarks on a forbidden romance. After said romance comes into the open, bad things happen. But what makes this film so much more is that Oharu continually tries to redeem herself, but her shady past always seems to creep up on her. The viewer understands that Oharu's initial romance, while considered heinous at the time, is not one that is out of place in modern society. The initial, ill-fated romance is obvious to the viewer, and though know it will end in tragedy, we cannot help but be sad for Oharu. We also cannot help but feel compassion for her throughout the film. This human aspect of the film is what draws us in.
    Read more ›
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
    Sort of a Japanese "Madam Bovary". Early Mifune movie.....didn't recognize him....very short role in the beginning.
    Published 1 month ago by Peggy S. Oba
    5.0 out of 5 stars Amazon is censoring 1 - star reviews - SPREAD THE WORD!
    Amazon is censoring 1 - star reviews - SPREAD THE WORD!
    Published 3 months ago by Amy Zuchsul
    5.0 out of 5 stars good classic movie
    a very good story and well filmed and enjoyable to watched - glad was put on blu ray to watch
    Published 6 months ago by jda
    4.0 out of 5 stars A sad story of women's life in 17th Century Japan.
    This is an interesting movie that explores the women's side of feudal Japanese culture. Women are actual objects to be sold or traded. Even her father offers her no real sympathy. Read more
    Published 8 months ago by Robert L. Fastner
    5.0 out of 5 stars One of Mizoguchi's finest
    Those with knowledge and appreciation of Japanese history and the place in society of Japanese women will be touched by this masterful film. Read more
    Published 11 months ago by Wabi Savvy
    4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Film
    This is not my favorite "Mitsoguchi" film. though beautifully shot, It is a very slow moving movie and the unrelenting victimization of the heroine makes two hours and... Read more
    Published 13 months ago by Allan K. Betz
    5.0 out of 5 stars A careful and intelligent performace
    From the moment she turns on her suitor only to relent you can see that this is a performace worth watching. Read more
    Published 14 months ago by syduenonimous
    4.0 out of 5 stars Very effective and heartbreaking
    I have many films from Japan in my collection. This new Blu-Ray disc is a stunning restoration of a 1952 film. Read more
    Published 15 months ago by Jim Tarleton
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