Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. Japan, 1952. Koi Productions, Shintoho Film Distribution Committee. Screenplay by Kenji Mizoguchi, Yoshikata Yoda, based on the novel Koshuku Ichidai Onna by Saikaku Ihara. Cinematography by Yoshimi Hirano, Yoshimi Kono. Produced by Hideo Koi, Kenji Mizoguchi. Music by Ichiro Saito. Production Design by Hiroshi Mizutani. Film Editing by Toshio Goto.
Kenji Mizoguchi’s stunning masterpiece is a heartbreaking tale of purity in a world of corruption. Based on a seventeenth-century novel by Saikaku Ihara called The Woman Who Loved Love, it tells the story of Oharu, a young woman starts off as a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial Palace of Kyoto. She falls in love with a man below her rank, for which she is expelled from the palace and her home, forcing her and her parents to live in shameful exile. Try as she might to find love in her relationships, she is constantly thwarted by her society’s low expectations for a woman’s heart and her father’s ambitions for respectability, soon descending to being a concubine, later a streetwalking prostitute. Mizoguchi’s tones are so gentle and poetic that every frame works its way into your heart, and in such a delicate manner. Kinuyo Tanaka‘s performance as Oharu abandons the melodramatic gestures common to Japanese film acting and goes straight for the heart. Sumptuous production design, subtle editing and a decidedly feminist message.