Life of Oharu VHS
Widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, Life of Oharu is Kenji Mizoguchi's (Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff) self-proclaimed masterpiece. Known for his graceful directorial style and sympathetic portrayal of women, Mizoguchi risked all to tell the devastating story of one woman's fall from lady-in-waiting to concubine to prostitute. Avoiding melodrama, Mizoguchi focuses on Oharu's dignity as she is betrayed repeatedly by her father, her lovers, and society. Saikaku Ihara's classic 17th-century novel is brilliantly realized through a masterful screenplay and the heart-rending performance of Kinuyo Tanaka (Sansho the Bailiff). The film, which won top honors at the Venice Film Festival, earned Mizoguchi worldwide recognition and new artistic freedom as a director.
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Mizoguchi deftly examines the place of women in Japanese society in this film. In fact it was a theme that ran through much of his filmmaking from Osaka Elegy onward. Oharu, beautifully acted by Kinuyo Tanaka, moves in an ever downward spiral for the crime of falling in love with a person below her class. At the opening of the film she is forced to reflect on her life as she stares at statues in a Buddist temple. She began life as a lady in waiting at the Imperial Palace of Kyoto. A youthful indescretion with a court page, Katsunosuke ( Toshiro Mifune) leads to the exile of her entire family. She becomes the concubine of Lord Matsudaira (Toshiaki Konoe) but only for the purpose of bearing him a male heir. After giving birth she is sent away from the palace. She becomes a maid and then as she ages finds short lived hapiness as the wife of a fan maker. His untimely death leads her into a life of prostitution in order to survive.
The story is told with great dignity and never attempts to judge Oharu for her actions. Oharu is simply a part of the society in which she lives.
I viewed this film on the Homevision VHS tape and while not great the picture is adequate. The picture is slightly soft and does not truly do justice to either the material or to the cinematography of Yoshimi Hirano. The English subtitles are burned into the print in white but are quite readable. This is quite rare and welcome on a film of this age.
The film, while somewhat hard to find, is well worth seeking out and is highly recommended.
The movie is about a girl who gets sold over and over again, from a rich family to dirt poor. She survives and the opium pipes are ever present. Takes place at the end of the samuari period when land owners were thought of as royalty. As a collector of Japanese movies, I enjoyed it with all the flaws.
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