Ishun is a wealthy, but unsympathetic, master printer who has wrongly accused his wife and best employee of being lovers. To escape punishment, the accused run away together, but Ishun is certain to be ruined if word gets out.
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To save her brother and the ancestral house from the heavy burden of an unfulfilled debt, Osan--the noble wife of the parsimonious but reputable scroll-maker, Ishun--turns to her husband's kind-hearted employee, Mohei. However, a transparent forgery paired with a preposterous accusation will force the pair to escape from the printer's unwelcome Kyoto household, seeking refuge in 17th-century Osaka's inhospitable streets. Now, amid scandalous and disquieting rumours--and constantly under threat--Mohei and Osan seem to fight a lost battle. What fate awaits the fugitives from Chikamatsu?Written by
This film was near the end of a wonderful sequence of films made near the end of his life by Mizoguchi. As Tony Raines says in the DVD extra for the Masters of Cinema edition this was a studio project that he was not wholly enthusiastic about. This shows a little in the film as it lacks some of the real flair and emotional power of some of his earlier great films. However, it shares with them his wonderful flowing camera and great cinematography. Its also a terrific story, based originally on a story from the great Japanese 17th Century playwright Monzaemon Chikamatsu (hence the Japanese name, A Tale from Chikamatsu). The screenplay is skillfully worked from the original story, which depends a lot of some pretty unlikely coincidences.
The film has a great cast, although the lead actor (and major star at the time) Kazuo Hazegawa is a little old for the role of the shy lover. Kyoko Kagawa is great as the wife of a powerful merchant who is mistakenly accused of having an affair with her servant, but then falls in love with him as they both go on the run.
As you'd expect from a Mizoguchi film, technically it is flawless, with lovely sets and some beautiful camera work. The Masters of Cinema version on DVD is a beautiful restoration. For Mizoguchi fans, this film is well worth getting, but for those who haven't seen many of his films it would be better to start with some of his earlier masterpieces.
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