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THE LIFE OF O-HARU
aka SAIKAKU ICHIDAI ONNA
UK: Artificial Eye
Cast: Kinuyo Tanaka, ToshirO Mifune, IchirO Sugai, Toshiro Yanane, EitarO ShindO, Tsukie Matsura, Toshiaki Konoe, Kiyoko Tsuji, Jukichi Uno, Akira Oizumi, KyOko Kusajima, Masao Shimizu, Daisuke KatO, Toranosuke Ogawa, Hiroshi Oizumi
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Language: Japanese (English subtitles)
UK: 133 mins
UK Certificate: PG
UK Release Date: 19 December 2003 (Limited Re-release)
Filmed in black and white Kenji Mizoguchi's compelling chronicle of female suffering is an exquisitely crafted tragedy. A portrait and criticism of feudal Japan as seen through the eyes of a woman, THE LIFE OF O-HARU tells the story of O-Haru (Kinuyo Tanaka), a beautiful courtesan in 17th century Japan, who falls in love with a commoner (Toshiro Mifune) and is punished for her lapse from social grace by being sent into exile. Mainly told in flashback, the film follows her subsequent decline and fall. Kinuyo Tanaka, gives an outstanding performance as O-Haru.
Tackling difficult social themes straight on, Mizoguchi's unflinching realism portrays the personal dramas within these fully detailed historical settings. His one abiding theme was a sympathy for the exploited and marginalised members of society, in particular the plight of women and their position in Japanese society. After winning the Silver Lion Award at the 1952 Venice Film Festival,with this film, Mizoguchi became an idol for the French New Wave.
Bringing a rich, almost textural realism to the cinema, Mizoguchi's films bear a palpable sense of atmosphere, incorporating all elements of design from the meticulously detailed mise-en-scene and intricate sound and lighting design to the long and sweeping camera movements.