Mizoguchi was a fast worker in the silent era, and though he slowed down some with the advent of sound films he still managed two films in 1936 just five months apart. If Osaka Elegy, as I said before, has the feel of an early work, this film, made immediately afterwards, already feels like a considerable advance; Mizoguchi’s famous long take is more in evidence (I counted at least one shot lasting over three minutes, which is a reasonable proportion of a 70-minute film, really) and better utilised, and his general attack is sharper here too. He reuses most of the last film’s cast in this tale of two sisters scraping a living as geisha; Isuzu Yamada, who plays Ayako in Osaka Elegy, here plays Omocha, the younger of the two sisters and by far the more ruthless. It’s actually instructive watching the two films together like I did tonight; Omocha could almost be Ayako after she strides off to her uncertain future, left understandably embittered by her experience and more than ready to exploit the men around her as she sees them being, while her older sister is resigned to a more passive existence. Once again, of course, there can be no happy ending in this, yet Mizoguchi offers no condemnation of either woman; the position they’re in is the one Japanese society has forced them into, and the men of that society will ultimately just fuck them over one way or the other. It was nice to revisit Osaka Elegy earlier, having not seen it for many years, but I think I liked this one (which I hadn’t seen before) rather better.
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