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664 - The Life Of Oharu


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#1 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 04:24 PM

664.jpg
THE LIFE OF OHARU
Kenji Mizoguchi

Japan • 1952 • 137 minutes • Black and White • 1.37:1 • Japanese
A peerless chronicler of the soul who specialized in supremely emotional, visually exquisite films about the circumstances of women in Japanese society throughout its history, Kenji Mizoguchi had already been directing movies for decades when he made The Life of Oharu in 1952. But this epic portrait of an inexorable fall from grace, starring the incredibly talented Kinuyo Tanaka as an imperial lady-in-waiting who gradually descends to street prostitution, was the movie that gained its director international attention, ushering in a new golden period for him.


DISC FEATURES

  • New high-definition digital film restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Introductory commentary by scholar Dudley Andrew
  • Mizoguchi's Art and the Demimonde, an illustrated audio essay featuring Andrew
  • Kinuyo Tanaka's New Departure, a 2009 film by Koko Kajiyama documenting the actor's 1949 goodwill tour of the United State
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Gilberto Perez


#2 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 15 April 2013 - 04:24 PM

NOTES:
  • DVD/BD Release Date: July 9, 2013
  • Blu-Ray cover artwork:

    Posted Image


#3 Opale

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 09:58 AM

I heard so much about this film I can't wait to finally see it!

#4 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 07 April 2014 - 12:47 PM

“Life is suffering.”
 
Mizoguchi is one of the best directors with the crane shot.  The majority of his shots are taken from it even if it appears to be standing still.  It always has the potential to be whisked away within the same unbroken take.  He specializes in long takes (not Bela Tarr length) which was especially hard to do with this production.  He had to set up the sets in a warehouse near a railroad and since he preferred direct sound to post-sync sound he did take after take to get the scenes to his liking which was often interrupted by the nearby trains.  But with his auteuristic fervor and perspicacious direction he helmed a consummate jidai geki that is comparable to his other masterpieces Ugetsu and Sansho the Bailiff.
 
There is not much respite from the calamity and heartbreaks that betakes Oharu.  But she goes on with an austere dignity that is beaten but not broken even when Fate seems to be against her at literary every turn.  Sometimes the pathos seems to be almost overbearing and it starts all from one single event.  She falls in love with a lower caste retainer Katsunosuke (Toshiro Mifune who is really only in a few minutes of the film) which causes his death and her and her family to be exiled (kind of selfish for him to push so hard since he knew what might happen because of this.)  We know from the beginning that she ends up as a lowly prostitute, but we are going to witness her gradual decline that is a combination of circumstance and the unfortunateness of being a woman in the Edo period (with the analogy to modern times as well.)
 
While this is taken from Saikaku Ibara’s novel Koshuku Ichidai Onna the tone according to scholar Dudley Andrew is completely different as Mizoguchi incorporates a melodramatic approach compared to the satirical and more lurid book.  In some ways the titular character reminds me of the heartbroken heroine in Federico Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria.  This is in many cinema canons like Kinema Junpo Top 100 Japanese Movies, Roger Ebert’s Great Movie List and the aggregate list TSPDT 1000.
 
The Criterion release is quite good.  There is an illustrated essay by Dudley Andrew Mizoguchi's Art and the Demimonde which interesting enough goes over Utamaro and His Five Women quite a bit making me wonder if Criterion will release this eventually.  Andrew also does a commentary on the film for the first 28 minutes only repeating some of the material he had in the illustrated essay.


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