Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Saikaku ichidai onna / The Life of Oharu

O’Haru – naisen tie / O’Haru – en kvinnas väg. JP 1952. PC: Shin Toho. EX: Isamu Yoshii. P: Hideo Koi. D: Kenji Mizoguchi. SC: Yoshikata Yoda, Yoshii Isamu – based on the novel Koshoku ichidai onna written in the 17th century by Saikaku Ihara (in Finnish: Kirsikkatyttö, Otava 1978, translator Martti Turunen). DP: Yoshimi Hirano. AD: Hiroshi Mizutani. M: Ichiro Saito. C: Kinuyo Tanaka (O’Haru), Toshiro Mifune (Katsunosuke), Masao Shimizu (Kikuoji), Ichiro Sugai (Shinzaemon), Tsukio Matsuura (Tomo), Kiyoko Tsuji (mistress of the inn), Toshiaki Konoe (Harutaka Matsudaira), Hisako Yamane (Matsudaira's wife), Yuriko Hamada (Otsubone Yoshioka), Kyoko Kusajima (lady-in-waiting Sodegaki), Noriko Sengoku (lady-in-waiting Sakurai), Haruyo Ichikawa (lady-in-waiting Iwabashi), Eitaro Shindo (Kabee Sasaya), Sadako Sawamura (Owasa), Hiroshi Oizumi (Bunkichi), Masao Mishima (Taisaburo Hishiya), Eijiro Yanagi (rich man from the country / counterfeiter), Jukichi Uno (Yakichi Ogiya). Loc: Shin Toho outdoor studio in Hirakata near Kyoto. Helsinki premiere: 22.11.1963 Orion, dist: Aito Mäkinen, Finnish / Swedish titles by Aito Mäkinen / Jerker Eriksson – tv: 28.11.1968 MTV1, 29.10.1989 YLE TV2 – VET 67280 – K16 – sources say 148 min – in Finland 3760 m / 136 min. A vintage KAVA print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (I Love You, I Film You), 29 May 2012.

Revisited a magnum opus which was a turning-point in Kenji Mizoguchi's career into a final and consistent greatness and maturity in every way.

The extremely versatile leading role in Saikaku ichidai onna was equally important for Mizoguchi's favourite actor, Kinuyo Tanaka. She gets to play a young woman in love, a desperate woman about to commit suicide after her beloved (the love of her life) has been executed, the long-sought ideal woman who meets the absurdly precise specifications of the Matsudaira clan, a concubine in the court of the Matsudaira palace, a young mother whose baby is taken from her and who is banished from the palace, a luxury courtesan in an expensive house of pleasure, an employee at the house of a well-to-do merchant, a wife of a poor merchant of fans, a nun apprentice, a sick and hungry beggar playing desperate songs on the shamisen, a common streetwalker humiliated by a leader of pilgrims who pays her to show her to them as a study object of what happens when a person sinks to the gutter, and finally, a mendicant nun. O'Haru is not idealized, but there is no more powerful story of a via dolorosa in the history of the cinema.

The feeling for the historical epoch is passionate both in the grand vision and the lovingly created detail.

Mizoguchi's visual style reaches its full maturity here: the long shots, the long takes, the high angles, even extreme high angles, and the majestic crane movements from the panoramic views to the telling detail and vice versa.

The unique quality of Mizoguchi is his ability to convey personal, intimate, and lyrical feelings even in majestic, epic long shots and long takes. His kind of objectivity is not distant in a cool and indifferent way. There is a lot of comedy and satire in the movie. Otherwise the seriousness of the story of injustice and lovelessness would be unbearable.

The print has been struck from a duped source with an uneven definition of light. There is enough good footage to get an idea of what the Mizoguchi look is like, but unfortunately especially in the beginning the definition of light is low. The 136 min print is shorter than the official complete 148 min version but studying an extensive synopsis afterwards I didn't notice any story element to be missing.

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