While her husband is in prison doing time, Tamaki, the wife of a yakuza capo, runs her spouse's gang with an iron hand. Meanwhile, Makoto, her younger sister, marries a member of a rival ... See full summary »
A great period film that happens to be sadly overlooked
Tokyo Bordello was apparently director Hideo Gosha's last big box office success in Japan, but nowadays it's rarely mentioned, even when this particular filmmaker's best films are discussed. I've just finished watching it and I'd rank it as one of his best.
It depicts the final few years of the famous Yoshiwara pleasure district and can be categorized as one of the many films from the "life of Japanese prostitutes" sub-genre, the type of film that certain directors (like Kenji Mizoguchi) built almost their entire career over. The story in Tokyo Bordello isn't really original, but Hideo Gosha makes it all work because the style of the film is enough to carry it for two hours.
The sets are pretty lavish and colorful, but it's all done in moderation, unlike the migraine-inducing kitschy visuals from, for example, Sakuran (2006), another (much worse) film from the "life of Japanese prostitutes" sub-genre. Gosha's film has a slower pace than his other works, but there's always something happening and the performances are just unusual enough to be interesting and subdued enough not to be annoying overacting. The music is quite great, and the climactic scene is pretty hectic and well-directed. This movie should be better known.
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