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aka - Uwasa No Onna
Japan 1954
Directed by
Kenji Mizoguchi
83 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Her Mother's Profession

One of three films by Mizoguchi released in 1954 (the others being The Crucified Lovers and The Legend of Bailiff Sansho) and his last film with Kinuyu Tanaka, who plays a widowed madam of a geisha house. She is in love with a young doctor (Tomoemon Otani) who looks after the geishas. She is going to set him up in his own practice but when her attractive daughter (Yoshiko Kuga) returns home he soon loses turns his attention to her.

Mizoguchi is well-known for his sympathetic interest in women’s role in society and here this results in a semi-documentary treatment of his main subject-matter, life in a geisha house (he would look at life in a more Westernized brothel in Street Of Shame, 1956). This is of considerable academic interest to a Western viewer who probably will know nothing of this profession although from a dramatic point of view it gives the film a distanced quality with the two women representing the traditional and modern Japanese woman and the spineless young doctor a typically useless Mizoguchi male. For anyone who appreciates the aesthetics of Japanese interior décor the film is a delight, with each shot meticulously framed and superbly photographed by Kazuo Miyagawa who was cinematographer for all of this group of classic Mizoguchi films.

FYI: Born into a poor family, Mizoguchi's sister, Suzu, was sold as a geisha while she was still a child. After he left the family home after his mother’s death, the teenage Mizoguchi lived with his sister and her rich protector.

DVD Extras: Audio commentary by Dr. Barbara Hartley, Senior lecturer in Japanese Studies, University of Tasmania; Original theatrical trailer

 

Available from: Madman

 

 

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