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The Life of Oharu (1952)

Saikaku ichidai onna (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 20 April 1964 (USA)
Follows a woman's fight and survival amid the vicissitudes of life and the cruelty of the society.

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(novel), | 1 more credit »
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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

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

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 <mgeorges@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

20 April 1964 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Diary of Oharu  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Quotes

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

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

Connections

Featured in The Bird (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

 
more heartbreak for the souls of women in suffering for Mizoguchi - and no less than his other great films
8 November 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Not even Lars von Trier can get to dramaturgy this depressing about a woman's decay of a life and horrendous bad luck. Yet Kenji Mizoguchi keeps things engrossing just because this character of Oharu is a smart, empathetic character, and the idea of a person having no real rights but only owners really is something that should go past simple feminist statements. at the same time I think, coming as it does in post war Japan in 1952, its the director via the book saying, look, don't take ANY freedoms for granted. not a shot is wasted here (even if one or two go just a bit longer than necessary, it's fine though, von Trier does worse).

And it all amounts to a moral plea, that even in the system of owners and property and where money is king (not queen), you still make choices to be decent or indecent, and that perceptions shouldn't be just taken at face value. If there is any big lesson to take away it's that so much horror that can befall a good person is someone's first impression and lack of critical thinking. Indeed, it's shot with an uncanny ability to focus on major points in seemingly small moments- when the one man is looking about at all the Kyoto girls and none fit his strict standards for his master's breeding needs, the shot tracks along as he is looking at them all slowly, and it ends with the shot showing all the girls looking at the man like 'what did we do wrong?' But the performances are all strong (if, yeah, melodramatic as hell at times, it is Japanese neo-realism to an extent).

And of course the inimitable Toshiro Mifune steals his precious scenes and helps to add to the initial trauma for Oharu- when you lose a man like that, it's all downhill from there perhaps.


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