Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January 19th, 2013

Osaka Elegy DVD

Ayako Murai is a young woman working as a telephone operator in 1930’s Osaka. In order to pay the debts of her father, unemployed and threatened with arrest after embezzling ¥300, she agrees to become the mistress of her employer Mr. Asai. After paying her father’s debts she then continues working as a mistress, this time for another workplace admirer, Mr Fujino, in an attempt to help pay her brother Hiroshi’s university tuition fees. When she attempts to fool Mr Fujino into giving her extra money, so she can marry her boyfriend Nishimura, he calls the police and she is arrested for soliciting. Upon her return home she is ostracised by her family and her boyfriend and forced to leave home.

This is one of Kenji Mizoguchi’s earliest masterpieces about Japanese women and their struggles in a male dominated society although the best of his works was yet to come. The story that unfolds is made even more sad due to the fact that the main character Ayako is only trying to protect her father and family in what she does but they turn their back on her in the end and she is left all alone. She is basically pushed by family pressure into becoming a mistress to pay back the money that her pathetic and cowardly father has taken. Ayako gets no support from her self-centred brother and her naive little sister. She throws away her dignity and is made to pay the price for it in the end by being publicly shamed with her name splashed over the newspapers. It’s embarassing in Japanese society for a family when their name becomes tarnished. A black name against a family can stay with them for a long time sometimes even for a generation in some cases making life somewhat difficult for them. I was surprised when I found out that Mizoguchi had based this story on his own sister. She was sold into being a prostitute for a rich man by her own father as they were quite a poor family. Thanks to the money coming in from his sister, young Kenji was able to go through school and be educated which would lead him on the path to becoming a movie director.

Osaka Elegy screenshot

The movie has a compelling story with some great acting from the cast especially Isuzu Yamada who is excellent as Ayaka. The viewer sympathises with her situation and can see the dark road she is leading herself down throughout the movie. The script is written well and the camera techniques used by Mizoguchi such as long takes, light and shadows and outdoor night shots of Osaka only enhances the movie. Certain scenes such as the bunraku puppet play in the theatre or when Ayako’s boyfriend discovers her double life are memorable moments but it’s the final scene of the movie which usually gets picked as being the best by critics as Ayako walks towards the camera, stares into it before walking off. It makes us think what will ultimately happen to her – will she have a bleak future or will she find happiness? As it’s only a 71 minute movie, the plot zips along at a quick pace.

Osaka Elegy was the first Kenji Mizoguchi movie to show how brilliant a director he really was. It gave him a lot of acclaim in Japan and would provide the springboard for the success he would so rightfully get in the future. Recommended if you enjoy early Japanese cinema.

There’s no trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »