Oyû-sama (1951) Poster


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menage a trois (in Japanese)
GyatsoLa8 June 2008
Mizoguchi was employed by a studio that wished, post war Japan, to target the womens market with superior, slightly racy melodramas. He directed what by todays standard seems an incredible number of movies in a few years, alternating personal projects like Lady Oharu with more commercial studio fare like this movie.

This is a top class example of the type of movie that resulted. The term 'womens movie' can seem a little derisive - but this was simply the market they aimed for. It is an adaption of a well known and respected book from the early '30's, although it is set in contemporary times, while the original was set in the Meiji period. In the excellent Masters of Cinema DVD, Tony Rayne's introduction suggests that Mizoguchi wasn't particularly proud of the movie, one reason being that he was forced by the studio to miscast Kinuyo Tanaka as the eponymous heroine, rather than a more elegant, disciplined actress (Hara Setsuko comes to mind as someone who would have played this beautifully). There is certainly a problem with the movie in that she plays the character as a more forceful, modern woman than was probably intended. But I think only those who read the book would find this a major problem.

The story concerns a young man who rather inconveniently falls in love with the beloved older sister (Miss Oyu) of his intended bride. His bride insists on going ahead with the marriage, but without consummating it, so that he can be close to Miss Oyu, who is a widow who must live at home with her in-laws to take care of her son, but by tradition is not allowed to remarry. Over the years the three-way relationship takes some predictably tragic turns.

The story is far more melodramatic than the movies of this period by Ozu or Naruse. It could have been pretty horrible in the hands of a less skillful director than Mizoguchi. But his astonishingly beautiful sets and his famous one cut scenes sets the movie apart. It really is gorgeous to look at.

These stories were and are seen by some Japanese as problematic, as they can be seen as romanticizing archaic sentiments. To my western eyes, I found it utterly fascinating. The manner in which people struggle under arranged marriages to find love and happiness is utterly alien to westerners, yet still compelling. I had somewhat low expectations about this movie as several sources dismiss it as very minor compared to Mizoguchi's pre-war and later period masterpieces. It is certainly not a work of genius to match Sansho Dayo or Ugetsu, but I found it riveting viewing and certainly not a minor movie by any standards.
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Another amazing Mizoguchi's film
Luis Angel Gonzalez2 November 2011
Shinnosuke accepts to marry Shizu in order to be closer to her sister, a widowed wife and mother of a son. Shizu proposes him marriage because doing so would mean staying near her sister, not marrying him and marrying another man would mean to separate from her. Japanese customs forbid Oyu (shizu's sister) to marry another man because it is her duty to educate his son for him to become one day the head of her deceased husband family. Oyu has the same feelings Shinnosuke has for her, so the marriage between him and her sister allows them to be together apparently with no suspicion. The three of them develop a strange bond.

There's really not much to say about the technical aspects in this film, if you know Mizoguchi's directing you know you're in good hands. Anyway though, as usual, the scenes are beautifully shot. I even found myself really liking the music here, it adds perfectly to the atmosphere.

Overall, this is another another great film from Mizoguchi that's worth the time.
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Miss Oyu
Martin Teller6 January 2012
A man falls in love with the sister of his bride-to-be, but all parties involved are bound by societal constraints. The film has the usual stunning cinematography, with graceful tracking moves and elegant framing. The story is engaging, easy to follow and doesn't drag. It's an all-around good movie. But as I've said before, lately I'm getting bored with Mizoguchi. His films just don't thrill me like they used to. It gets kind of tiresome to watch people hang their heads and bemoan their situations all the time. I get that the point is they're being repressed by archaic social expectations, but it'd be nice to see a little more resistance. Everyone is so damn passive. Again, it's a well-crafted film but one that doesn't really inspire a lot of sympathy for the characters.
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Tragic triangle
laura-magnus5 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Miss Oyu is the story of a tragic triangular love. A young man falls in love with the older woman who accompanies his bride-to-be to an informal introduction. On their wedding night the bride, who has noticed his infatuation and all it's implications, suggests that they maintain their union on a platonic level. This would allow his love to remain pure and stop her betraying her friend, the older woman, whom she suspects to be in love with her husband as well. In the best Mizoguchi manner this is achingly beautiful, subdued and heart felt. The criticism of society is more hinted at than in other films. The experience on a whole is just as emotionally satisfying.
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lreynaert27 June 2013
Kenji Mizoguchi's movie 'Miss Oyu' is simply masterful. It is based on a short story (The reed cutter) by Junichiro Tanizaki. But, while the motives and the emotions of the protagonists in the short story are sometimes rather ambiguous, they are totally purified in the screenplay. The protagonists exemplify traditional family roles and are confronted with these traditions, like in this movie a widow with children. She cannot remarry, because she must stay in her husband's family home to raise her children.

The main topic of the movie is forbidden love, and more generally the impossibility of being happy in this world, which are very characteristic themes in Kenji Mizoguchi's films. The film illustrates also some typical aspects of J. Tanizaki's work, like the 'physical' (facial) influence of a mother on the future emotional life of her son, or the fear of scandal and of losing one's face in society.

This film shines through the purity and the intensity of the emotions of the protagonists (hidden for a long time, they erupt violently), through the marvelous performances of the actors and through its forceful message about the all importance of love. A must see.
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A minor Mizoguchi, but exquisitely constructed
Balthazar-52 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
It's funny how, sometimes, one has to see a minor film by a great director to really understand the essence of their art. 'The Lady Vanishes', for example, is minor Hitchcock of his late British period, but it reflects the joy that he had found in turning expectations inside out and directing the eyes of the audience through camera and character movement.

A few weeks ago I bought a box set of the last eight films of Kenji Mizoguchi, and I am finally getting round to watching them. Of all major film directors, Mizoguchi is the one whose work I know least – I had only seen two of his films (albeit two great masterpieces – 'Ugetsu Monogatari' and 'The Life of O-Haru').

From those two films, I thought of the director as a great weaver of mystical tales and adherent of tracking shots, both of which are fine as far as they go, but perhaps limiting in films of lesser stature. However, taking the films in this set chronologically, I encountered first 'Oyu-sama' - a tragic melodrama about the forbidden love of a young middle-aged artisan for a widow of higher social station in turn of the century Japan.

In spite of being toted as a minor work, it impressed immediately with two aspects: first the painterly precision of the film's early rural exteriors that closely resembled, structurally, several major Japanese artists – with nested planes of activity and visual interest drawing the spectator's eye irrevocably towards the focus of dramatic interest. The second and more important quality was that of the precision and the exquisite expression of the mise en scène.

The story revolves around the mistake made by the central male character, Shinnosuke, when being introduced to a potential wife. He sees from 'afar' the party of young women and falls for the elder, widowed, sister (Oye) instead of the bride on offer (Shizu). This is brilliantly managed by Mizoguchi by following the party of women in several long-shots largely from Shinnosuke's point of view, where Oyu takes the lead and Shizu is totally occluded by the other women. It sounds contrived, but in the context of Shinnosuke's ignorance and eagerness it fits the situation perfectly.

As the film progresses, the precision of the mise en scène becomes even finer. There is a scene late on in the film when Shizu is undergoing a personal crisis in her marriage and she runs out of the house onto the beach to free herself from her woes. Oye follows to comfort her, but Mizoguchi places the camera to show this as a pursuit with Shizu as running away from Oye – and, dramatically, that is exactly what is happening, even though Shizu is trying to conceal it.

It is said that Mizoguchi was unhappy with the film, partly because the studio insisted on a linear narrative even though the novel on which it is based and the original script were structured as three long flashbacks. But there is enough complexity and resonance in the film to make it a valuable part of the director's work.

The well-known film that this most resembles, in my view is Renoir's 'Une Partie de Campagne', with which it shares a moving account of the way in which social conventions can devastate the lives of those who love unconventionally. It doesn't have the lyricism nor humour of Renoir's little masterpiece, but it does illuminate the film-maker's art as mentioned above and, through its modest achievements, show Mizoguchi to be the great director that his reputation announces.
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Mizoguchi and Miyagawa
kurosawakira26 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Mizoguchi would make only 10 films after this during the period of five years. He would soon become well-known in Europe thanks to "Saikaku Ichidai Onna" (1952) being nominated for the Golden Lion in Venice and winning the International Award.

There is, in this film, a great sense of stature and confidence. Indeed, the way the camera moves is deliberate, every scene full of detail. Ozu accomplishes something similar, giving a sense of utter control. "Fanny och Alexander" (1982) is similar in this sense, as well.

Mizoguchi and Miyagawa are a pairing that's perhaps the match of all matches in the history of film. You could watch this just for the way the camera moves, the way each scene is framed and how characters are positioned in the space. Not to mention the amazing set design by Hiroshi Mizutani.

As always, Tanaka Kinyuo is brilliant, as is Hori Yûji in the role Shinnosuke. However, Otowa Nobuko in the role of Shizu stays with me the most: the required naiveté, girlish allegiance to her sister and ultimately the deep affection for Shinnosuke; all of this is there, and it doesn't break into farce, instead culminating with drama that's not theatrical, instead very deep and amazingly moving. That role, I believe, is key to the success of the whole love triangle, since she is supposed to be the one who somehow allows it to happen. It works.
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