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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mizoguchi's empathy for female characters is legendary. The Life of Oharu is one outstanding example. One woman's journey from member of the imperial court to elderly streetwalker is narrated in exquisite, shimmering, painful style. Oharu (Kinuyo Tanaka) is seduced by a man below her station. Her crime is to love the man back unreservedly. That action becomes the catalyst for a series of degradations punctuated by false dawns, as Oharu's life spirals to rock bottom. And as bleak and depressing as that sounds, Mizoguchi's storytelling, combined with Tanaka's dignified portrayal, make this film cathartic, a tragedy with a small, life-affirming message at its heart. It is a cautionary tale to the follies of social mores, and the burden that women through the ages have to endure. More than that, it is a tale of one woman's dignity through the most humiliating of circumstances. Stunning.
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