The Life of Oharu (1952)
"Saikaku ichidai onna" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  20 April 1964 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 3,856 users  
Reviews: 23 user | 52 critic

Follows a woman's fight and survival amid the vicissitudes of life and the cruelty of the society.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tsukie Matsuura ...
Tomo, Oharu's Mother
Ichirô Sugai ...
Shinzaemon, Oharu's Father
Toshiaki Konoe ...
Lord Harutaka Matsudaira
Kiyoko Tsuji ...
Hisako Yamane ...
Lady Matsudaira
Jûkichi Uno ...
Yakichi Ogiya
Eitarô Shindô ...
Kahe Sasaya
Akira Ôizumi ...
Fumikichi, Sasaya's Friend
Kyôko Kusajima ...
Masao Shimizu ...
Daisuke Katô ...
Tasaburo Hishiya
Toranosuke Ogawa ...
Hiroshi Oizumi ...
Manager Bunkichi


A fifty-year-old prostitute, no longer able to attract men, looks back on her sad life. Once a lady-in-waiting at the imperial court at Kyoto, Oharu fell in love with, and became the lover of, a man below her station. They were discovered, and Oharu and her family were exiled. For Oharu there followed a life filled with one sorrow and humiliation after another. Written by George S. Davis <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

20 April 1964 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Diary of Oharu  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film, which was director Kenji Mizoguchi's dream project, was severely under-financed, and the production was forced to use a warehouse instead of a regular sound stage. This warehouse happened to be located near railways, and each time a train passed by, they had to stop shooting, which made the shooting of the film even more difficult with the director's obsessive use of long, continuous, uninterrupted takes. The same warehouse was also used for Josef Von Sternberg's film 'The Saga of Anatahan'. See more »


Katsunosuke: Lady Oharu, a human being - no, woman - can only be happy if she marries for love. Rank and money don't mean happiness.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits shown over Japanese artwork/water-colors. See more »


Referenced in Spirited Away (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

Why Did I Wait To See This?
11 August 2006 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

I finally saw Life of Oharu at the Ontario Cinematheque in Toronto last night and what an amazing film it was.

I don't know why I held out on Mizoguchi for so long. I think it's because I watched a lot of Ozu in the day and expected more of the same heavily restrained, obliquely symbolic style which is often as alienating as it is inventive. I couldn't have been further off the mark. Mizoguchi's style is fluid and assured like Hitchcock and Bresson. He also injects a warmth of spirit and shows a genuine interest in storytelling which is often absent in much of Ozu's ouevre.

The Story of Oharu is a treatise on how women are economically exploited in a patriarchal society. This is probably one of the greatest 'women's films' ever made. It ranks above 'Breaking The Waves' and Sirk's 'Imitation of Life'. No small feat!! If you like stories that actually say something about the world in which we live, I would strongly recommend this film. It's a masterpiece of world cinema. I am definitely going to see more Mizoguchi.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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