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Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women (Eclipse Collection) (1936-1956)

Cast: Isuzu Yamada, Isuzu Yamada, Kensaku Hara, more...
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi, Kenji Mizoguchi
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Classics, Drama, Foreign, Romance, Classic Romance, Japan, Classic Drama, Weepies, Criterion Collection
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English

Synopses
Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women: Osaka Elegy (Eclipse Collection) (Disc 1 of 4) (1936)
This is one of director Kenji Mizoguchi's first true masterworks in his long, highly celebrated career. Ayako, a young switchboard operator, tries to resist the advances of Asai, the owner of the pharmaceutical company where she works. Her love interest Nishmura, a young executive at the same company, does not seemed bothered, and her drunken father, who is up to his eyes in debt, is even less helpful. After a loud argument, her father throws her out of the house. With nowhere else to go, Ayako becomes Asai's mistress. She tries to pay her drunken father's numerous debts and help her brother Hiroshi with his studies. They eagerly accept the money but instead of gratitude, they demand more. Thanks to a comical mix-up at a doctor's office, Asai's wife finds out and the affair comes to an abrupt end. Yet thanks to her father's drinking, her family's financial situation seems as pressing as ever, which all but forces Ayako into prostitution. Unfortunately, the police catch her in the act. Even though her father and brother have been living off her, they brand Ayako a disgrace and cast her out of the house to face an uncertain future. ~ Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women: Sisters of the Gion (Eclipse Collection) (Disc 2 of 4) (1936)
Along with Osaka Elegy (1936), Sisters of the Gion is widely considered one of Kenji Mizoguchi's finest prewar films. The movie takes a realistic look at the life of a geisha in Kyoto's Gion district. Omocha is a geisha with "modern girl" sensibilities; she resents the way that men callously treat women, and she is inclined to ignore the traditions and expectations of her profession. She sets out to beat men at their own game, jumping from patron to patron (a no-no in the geisha business) in order to attain money, nice clothes, and fancy meals. In the process, she deceives and ruins a bumbling, though sincere, store clerk. Her sister Umekichi, on the other hand, possesses all the qualities of the legendary geisha. In spite of Omocha's mockery, she remains devoted to her bankrupt former patron. Eventually, the wronged store clerk exacts revenge against Omocha, landing her in the hospital, while Umekichi's patron abandons her, returning to his wife. As in much of his oeuvre, Mizoguchi shows a deep sensitivity towards the plight of women in society and, as in much of his postwar work, he emphasizes the inevitability of fate. Neither Omocha's guile nor Umekichi's loyalty can do much to alter their cruel predicaments; however, this acknowledgement of their fate yields little of the transcendence seen in such later films as Life of Oharu (1955).

Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women: Street of Shame (Eclipse Collection) (Disc 4 of 4) (1956)
Kenji Mizoguchi's final film was on one of his favorite subjects: prostitutes. After a spate of universally lauded period pieces, Mizoguchi returned to the socially conscious dramas that he made famous in the 1930s. Here, as in Osaka Elegy (1936), he offered a scathing critique of society's hypocrisies and exploitative treatment of women, without the sort of transcendence seen in Life of Oharu (1952). This gritty drama of six working girls in one brothel in Tokyo's Yoshiwara red-light district explores how the women came to work in such a place -- trying to pay for their children's education, trying to bail their fathers out of prison, trying to support their out-of-work husbands -- and how they fight to maintain their dignity in spite of the degradations of their profession. Machiko Kyo gives a remarkable performance as Mickey, a cynical hooker with a heart of stone, who shames and then cruelly propositions her own father, while Aiko Mimasu plays the aging Yumeko, who is emotionally shattered after her son rejects her. This film was reportedly instrumental in the outlawing of prostitution in Japan.

Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women: Women of the Night (Eclipse Collection) (Disc 3 of 4) (1948)
Yoru no Onnatachi (Women of the Night) was one of three Kenji Mizoguchi films entered into competition at the 1957 Venice Film Festival. Like the other two Mizoguchi efforts (Uwasa no Onna, Mushashino Ujin), the film was several years old; in this case, it was completed in 1948. Like many of the director's best films, Yoru no Onnatachi is a pro-feminist tract, set principally in a Japanese "bagnio", or legalized brothel. The story centers around two sisters who are forced into prostitution to survive. The film's climax takes place in a "kangaroo court" presided over by whores, wherein the two women are accused of being traitors to their class.

GreenCine Member Ratings

Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women: Osaka Elegy (Eclipse Collection) (Disc 1 of 4) (1936)
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8.71 (7 votes)
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Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women: Sisters of the Gion (Eclipse Collection) (Disc 2 of 4) (1936)
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8.38 (8 votes)
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Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women: Street of Shame (Eclipse Collection) (Disc 4 of 4) (1956)
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8.12 (8 votes)
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Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women: Women of the Night (Eclipse Collection) (Disc 3 of 4) (1948)
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9.00 (4 votes)
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