The Woman in the Rumour (1954)

Tony Rayns’ introductions on these Masters of Cinema Mizoguchi editions have been useful and enlightening, especially the one he did for this film. Going on past experience, you’d expect by now that a story set more or less in a brothel and obviously having the oldest profession as its background would have been prime Mizoguchi territory, or at least I would’ve done. I’d have been wrong, though; according to Rayns, this film was kind of forced on him by the studio; evidently Daiei thought this was the sort of thing he did even though he apparently had no interest in this particular story. That made me worry when I heard that, cos I got the impression I wasn’t in for much of a ride with this film… so I was actually a bit surprised that I did like it; if Mizoguchi was kind of disconnected from this film for some reason, I didn’t really feel it… Prostitution is kind of the background to the film’s story, though, which is more about a mother and a daughter, the former of whom runs the brothel and the latter of whom, frankly, hates it. But Mum’s got her eye on legitimising herself by helping a young doctor she fancies to set up his own clinic and become Mrs Doctor; complications ensue (don’t they always) when the doctor falls for the daughter instead. There is a reasonable amount of room for melodrama in all this, and it would be wrong to deny that Mizoguchi fills that space (using such devices as the happy [?] couple[s] attending a Noh play about the foolishness of an old woman falling in love with a younger man), but it moves at a fair pace through its 84 minutes. Though obviously hardly a major production in the way that Ugetsu or Sansho were, I still wound up liking this rather more than I expected to.

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