Umekichi, a geisha in the Gion district of Kyoto, feels obliged to help her lover Furusawa when he asks to stay with her after becoming bankrupt and leaving his wife. However her younger sister Omocha tells her she is wasting her time and money on a loser. She thinks that they should both find wealthy patrons to support them. Omocha therefore tries various schemes to get rid of Furusawa, and set themselves up with better patrons.Written by
a 'message' movie that sneaks up on you with clever direction
The characters in Sisters of Gion are trapped, but like many women in a Japan of that era, which was... well, for a while up until 1936 and beyond. Particularly that of the Geisha, whose lives would have to revolve around men who would want them to "do things" for them; not simply sexual, though there was that, but just to take care of them, and buy things for them, etc. So in this story, Mizoguchi has a character, Omocha (Isuzu Yamada) who looks at her lot and life and doesn't like it, and tries to tell her much more submissive sister Umekichi the same. So she spends most of this story swindling a guy with a kimono mostly at the expense of a lower-rung guy who is staying with them, Furusawa, who lost his business. Not so much cause she's a bad person (she isn't) but just as the guy and who he's with kind of deserve it.
The story moves along at a fairly good pace, especially considering how short it is at 69 minutes (though according to IMDb the version available through the Eclipse DVD series is the shortened cut, a few times it does show), and it's pretty good... not great, mind you, but good. Some, or I should say most, of the dialog is a little too on-the-nose about the points it wants to make, even near the end when Mizoguchi really gains momentum with his story and the male-female dynamics of this society. And yet by the end it is powerful and moving, in some part because of how strongly he directs the film; those shots that kind of take deep focus looking down an alleyway that is kind of narrow, closing in on the characters, or how long he stays on a shot (he was all about the long takes too), almost like there's no escape for these girls.
So, do come for the feminism on display, which could be seen as overwrought or dated but only because it's 1936 and for its time is powerful - and stay for some elegant direction, some wonderful acting (watch the scene where Omocha has the guy over who is there on official matters, kind of to scold him for how she treated his employee, but then softens up when she serves Sake), and a couple of moments of good music, however sparse. 7.5/10
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