Archive for April 9th, 2012

The Life Of Oharu (1952)

In this movie told in flashback, the story follows a young woman named Oharu who is an attendant at the Imperial Court during the 17th century. This is a prestigious role for somebody so young but when she falls in love with a man lower in class and consequently found out, she is made an outcast and with her family is banished from the city. Her unfortunate lover suffers the fate of being beheaded. Shamed by her parents especially her father, Oharu is given as a concubine to a Lord whose wife cannot produce a child. That task is given to Oharu and when she produces an heir for the Lord her parents think they’ve hit the jackpot but fate is about to strike them again as Oharu is dismissed as she is making the Lord ill with her sexual energy. Sold from one client to another, Oharu seems to have bad luck written on her back and with each passing misfortune Oharu’s spirit is draining from her. Can Oharu find the happiness that has eluded her so far in her life?

What a bleak and moving story this is about the unluckiest woman in Japan. I felt so sorry for Oharu and what happens to her. The treatment she gets from her family and employers is disgraceful. They’re basically exploiting her. She never gets any kind of luck as her past seems to come back to haunt her or something else happens to ensure she never achieves true happiness. In the end as she grows older she’s forced to work as a prostitute just to survive. Such an undignified ending for somebody that started out in such a high position in society. Just one mistake in falling in love was to cost her dearly. When you think there’s a glimmer of light for the poor woman, her hopes are utterly crushed by something happening.

The acting by Kinuyo Tanaka as the unlucky Oharu is nothing short of excellent and the iconic Toshiro Mifune has a small part right in the beginning as Katsunosuke, Oharu’s lover that’s beheaded. Superb directing all round from Kenji Mizoguchi who weaves us such a compelling story for the viewer even though it’s such a sad and beautiful haunting tale. The cinematography is also well done. It’s hard to believe that this movie wasn’t a success when it was first released in Japan and it was such a problematic shoot due to going over budget. It was filmed in a bombed out park near a railway and each time a train was passing the shoot had to stop until the train had passed.

For fans of old school Japanese movies from the 50’s, this comes highly recommended and well worth checking out. Don’t miss out on this masterpiece.

No trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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In Hanzo Itami’s 2nd adventure, he upsets a high ranking officer working for Lord Okubo, the treasurer of the region whilst chasing 2 robbers on a bridge who thinks he’s disrespecting his superior. Unable to keep his mouth shut, Hanzo even badmouths Lord Okubo. Filled with rage, the officer officially challenges Hanzo to a duel sometime in the future. Hanzo and his 2 ex-con assistants find a body of a young girl at a watermill who has had an abortion. His investigation leads him to a nearby temple where the woman who runs the place performs a bizarre ritual to the God Oshizu before cutting unborn foetuses from women’s womb. Unable to prosecute the woman due to lack of evidence, Hanzo asks for information from the dead girl’s parents about where she would usually go. With this information, Hanzo heads off to Kaizan Temple where Priestess Nyokai has made it into a den of sexual debauchery. Girls snatched from nearby towns are sold to the highest male bidder for them to sexually abuse. Hanzo arrests the Priestess and interrogates her in his own special way! She confesses that the man behind the whole operation is Lord Okubo. But before Hanzo can go about dealing with Lord Okubo, he is given another task by his boss. Japan’s most wanted thief Shobei Hamajima is thinking of stealing all the money from the Edo Mint and the magistrate orders Hanzo to capture him at all costs.

I thought The Snare was much better than Sword of Justice in that it concentrates on the storyline unlike the first movie which focused more on Hanzo’s interrogation techniques on women. We get to see two such interrogations but it doesn’t last for that long and his training methods on which I mentioned in another review is kept to a minimum. This is by far one of the most sexist movies I’ve seen and so politically incorrect but that’s why it’s so great. You could never get away doing these kind of movies these days. The dry humour which is present throughout the movie is there to let you know that you can’t take everything too seriously. A particular sequence I loved was the ambush by Lord Okubo’s ninjas at Hanzo’s house. Naturally Hanzo is well prepared for such an attack and has boobytrapped the entire place. Spears come down from the ceiling and from the walls of the house and there’s a hidden arsenal of weapons for Hanzo to use. The attack is a complete failure and the assassins are decimated. Blood is sprayed about like it’s come from a hosepipe! Some of the statements that come out from Hanzo’s mouth is just so hilarious. It seems that any women with dark nipples are sluts according to him. It’s just little scenes such as this which makes the Hanzo movies so entertaining and funny to watch.

Shintaro Katsu is just awesome as the anti-hero Hanzo. He’s like a bull in a china shop barging his way into every situation but it produces results. You just woudn’t mess with the guy if you came across him. The actors protraying his ex-con assistants produce much of the humour and provide a nice balance for Hanzo’s snarly attitude.

If you liked Hanzo’s first movie then you have to check out this one. Who would have thought that Japanese trash cinema would be so much fun! Those that are easily offended would be wise to stay away from this movie.

I can’t find a trailer but did find this which features several scenes from the Snare as well as Sword Of Justice.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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