8.2/10
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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
...
Shinzaemon, Oharu's Father
...
Katsunosuke
Toshiaki Konoe ...
Lord Harutaka Matsudaira
Kiyoko Tsuji ...
Landlady
Hisako Yamane ...
Lady Matsudaira
Jûkichi Uno ...
Yakichi Ogiya
...
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 »

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

20 April 1964 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Life of Oharu  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list. 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.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Connections

Featured in Écoute voir... (1979) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A life of pain, sorrow and misfortune !!!
22 July 2017 | by See all my reviews

'The Life of Oharu' is not an easy film to watch. There is barely even a fleeting moment of joy/happiness and towards the end, the viewer will find himself/herself getting really angry and outraged by the unthinkable oppression and atrocities and engulf our titular protagonist. Mizoguchi's sympathetic treatment of Oharu compels the viewer to feel beaten down and horrified by Oharu's miserable plight.

The long line of tragedies in Oharu's life gets triggered by her decision to fall in love with Katsunosuke(played by the legendary Toshirô Mifune), a man of lower social standing. This element of forbidden love was also present in the previous Mizoguchi film that I watched namely 'The Story of Last Chrysanthemum'. The story arc of Otoku in that film to a some extent resembles the arc of Oharu in this one in terms of the mental and physical torture that they are both subjected to. Oharu makes an effort to conform to society's deplorable expectations, but even then gets nothing to show for it and gets discarded. This is because once she falls in social standing and gets sold off by her family, she ceases to be a human being in the eyes of society. There is a lot of references to trade and business in 'The Life of Oharu' which is relevant because Oharu over the course of her life becomes nothing more than a commodity to be sold from one customer to the next in the patriarchal society of 17th century Japan.

Mizoguchi technical mastery is again on show in 'The Life of Oharu'. Some of the long takes and extended tracking shots are truly remarkable. Mizoguchi had the ability to suggest a plethora of things like passage of time, a change in mood, etc. with one little pan movement of the camera or with just the camera placement and those features are on show here too. The interior sets are beautifully designed and the haunting music by Ichirō Saitō is used craftily from time to time to set/change the mood. Kinuyo Tanaka has to be admired for lending the sympathy inducing tender innocence to Oharu. Her performance in the scenes depicting the later stages of Oharu's life is jaw-dropping in its authenticity and humanity.

To conclude, I have to reiterate that 'The Life of Oharu' is not for everyone. One has to be in a specific mood to be able to endure the emotionally crushing narrative and storytelling of the film. But having said that, I still believe that it needs to be watched as Oharu represents numerous women(of Japan and beyond) in history and present times whose lives were and are still getting destroyed due to an oppressive society which denigrates women. It is said that Mizoguchi's obsession with capturing the misery of women in the face of oppression had its roots in his own childhood as his own sister who raised him was sold by their father. One can sense a personal grief, a personal intimacy in the style of storytelling in this particular film. Highly Recommended.


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