Thursday, September 26, 2013

Osaka Elegy

Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi and screenplay by Yoshikata Yoda from a story by Mizoguchi, Osaka Elegy is the story of a switchboard operator who finds herself in a troubling relationship with her boss while struggling to support her father. The film is an exploration into the life of a woman who feels compromised by her life as she seeks to find some form of identity. Starring Isuzu Yamada, Seiichi Takegawa, Chiyoko Okura, and Takashi Shimura. Osaka Elegy is a harrowing drama from Kenji Mizoguchi.

The film is the story about a woman who falls from grace as she works for a pharmaceutical company where she reluctantly becomes her boss’ mistress and later go into prostitution where she would disgrace her family including her debt-ridden father (Seiichi Takegawa). While it’s a plot that is quite simple, it takes its time to play into the fall of Ayako Murai (Isuzu Yamada) who is a switchboard operator trying to do her best as she needed money to help clear her father’s debt but it would come at a terrible price. Notably as she becomes compromised by her boss Mr. Asai (Yoko Umemura) who forces her to become his mistress. The script would showcase Ayako in this state of compromised as she later finds herself dealing with Asai’s wife (Benkei Shiganoya) and later become a prostitute when she realize she needs money. Even as she’s found a good prospect in a former co-worker in Nishimura (Kensaku Hara) but the truth about what she’s doing would add to her fall from grace.

Kenji Mizoguchi’s direction is very straightforward while he does infuse the film with some style such as long takes and some gazing tracking shots to play out the drama. Notably as it would play into the de-evolution of Ayako as this simple switchboard operator who feels slighted by her father and later her older brother Hiroshi (Shinpachiro Asaka) who needed money to pay for his tuition. Mizoguchi creates shots to showcase a world where women don’t feel up to measures with men. Especially as these men are selfish and at times, very foolish with an exception of sorts in Dr. Yoko (Kunio Tamura) who tries to help everyone. Still, Mizoguchi plays into the plight of Ayako where she goes from being an unhappy, compromised mistress into the world of prostitution as she becomes disgraced. Even as what happens to her isn’t entirely her fault where it plays into the cruelty men would do to a woman including the people in her own family. Overall, Mizoguchi creates a very haunting yet exhilarating film of a woman’s fall from grace.

Cinematographer Minoru Miki does excellent work with the black-and-white photography to capture the stark look of Osaka as well as the theaters and places that Ayako goes to in her journey. Editor Tatsuko Sakane does amazing work with the editing by maintaining a straightforward approach to the drama while using fade-outs to flesh out the structure. The sound work of Hisashi Kase and Yasumi Mizuguchi is terrific for capturing the atmosphere of the varied locations in the film including the intimate moments between its characters. The film’s music by Koichi Takagi is fantastic for its orchestral-based score to play up the melodrama that occurs in the film as well as to emphasize Ayako’s plight.

The film’s brilliant cast includes some small yet notable appearances from Takashi Shimura as a police investigator late in the film, Eitaro Shindo as an associate of Mr. Asai who tries to get Ayako to become his mistress, Kinuyo Tamura as the very kind yet comical Dr. Yoko, Benkei Shiganoya as Mr. Asai’s suspicious yet modern wife, and Shinpachiro Asaka as Ayako’s older brother Hiroshi. Kensaku Hara is terrific as Ayako’s co-worker Nishimura who tries to woo her only to get himself in trouble while Seiichii Takekawa is excellent as Ayako’s cruel yet debt-ridden father.

Chiyoko Okura is amazing as Ayako’s younger sister Sachiko who tries to get Ayako to return home and do right only to feel shamed by her. Yoko Umemura is great as the cruel and conniving Mr. Asai who manipulates Ayako into becoming his mistress as he ends up getting into trouble. Finally, there’s Isuzu Yamada in a radiant performance as Ayako as a young woman doing whatever she can to help her family but lose her self-respect as well as her identity in a very entrancing performance.

Osaka Elegy is a wonderful film from Kenji Mizoguchi that features an incredible leading performance from Isuzu Yamada. The film is definitely one of the most poignant yet harrowing tales of a woman being forced to make compromises on herself for others. In the end, Osaka Elegy is a marvelous film from Kenji Mizoguchi.

Kenji Mizoguchi Films: (Tokyo March) - (The Water Magician) - (Aizo Toge) - (The Downfall of Ozen) - (Sisters of the Gion) - (The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums) - The 47 Ronin - (Utamaro and his Five Women) - (The Love of the Actress Sumako) - (Portrait of Madame Yuki) - (Miss Oyu) - (The Lady of Musashino) - The Life of Oharu - Ugetsu - (A Geisha) - Sansho the Bailiff - (The Woman in the Rumor) - The Crucified Lovers - (Princess Yang Kwei-Fei) - (Tales of Taira Clan) - (Street of Shame)

© thevoid99 2013

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