Total Film - 01/01/2004
"THE LIFE OF OHARU was the film that gave the Japanese helmer a belated international reputation."
Uncut - 07/01/2004
"With ravishing black-and-white cinematography and an austere formality in the direction..."
Sight and Sound - 08/01/2004
"[A] heartbreaking tale of a 17th-century courtesan....It has enormous emotional impact..."
The first film of director Kenji Mizoguchi's great mid-1950s period, THE LIFE OF OHARU won the International Prize at Venice in 1952, catapulting him onto the international scene after more than 30 years of filmmaking. The film, set in Japan during the 17th-century Genroku era, is based on a well-known picaresque novel by Ihara Saikaku. Starring Kinuyo Tanaka as the title character, the story has been transformed by Mizoguchi into the tragic tale of an aged courtesan recounting her life in a series of extended flashbacks. The most beautiful woman at the imperial court, Oharu begins an unlawful love affair with lower-class page Katsunosuke (Toshirô Mifune). When the couple's transgression is uncovered by the authorities, they quickly exile Oharu and her family and behead the young page. Shonzaemon (Ichiro Sugai), Oharu's father, angered by the shame his daughter has brought upon the family, sells her to the local warlord to fill the degrading role of concubine and bear him a child. After the child is born, she returns to her father, who then sells her to a geisha house, as her life continues in an inexorable downward spiral. The heroine's unrelieved suffering is transformed into a sacred ritual of stoicism by some of the most sublime photography in all of Japanese film. The crabbing (oblique tracking) shots alone are arguably the most beautiful in the history of cinema. Although some prefer UGETSU, Mizoguchi considered this to be his finest film.
When an upper class woman falls in love with a man beneath her social standing, she is disgraced and ultimately must turn to prostitution in this Japanese version of THE SCARLET LETTER.
Love Story |
THE LIFE OF OHARU won the Silver Lion at the 1952 Venice Film Festival.
Director Kenji Mizoguchi's painstaking recreation of 17th-century Kyoto sent the film far over budget, nearly threatening its completion.
Toshirô Mifune, one of the most reknowned actors in the history of Japanese cinema, primarily worked with Akira Kurosawa, starring in 16 of the director's 30 films.
Critic Joan Mellen described the film as "..perhaps the finest film made...about the oppression of women."
Famed French director Jean-Luc Godard claimed to have seen the film over a dozen times.