The Life Of Oharu details
|Starring:||Kinuyo Tanaka, Toshiro Mifune|
|Genres:||Drama, World Cinema|
The Life Of Oharu
|Run time:||2 hours 11 minutes|
|Rental release:||26 Apr 2004|
Most helpful review
Stange and movingBy Zamy (552 reviews) from London , 16 Mar 2007
[Highly rated reviewer]This is one of those films that stays with you long after the final credits have gone. It seemed to me to be very Japanese and yet at the same time universal in its message that we cannot control our own destiny and at the same time we do make choices all the time that determine the course of our life. Mizoguchi is certainly one of the great directors in the history of cinema, though, for me, he comes second to the other great Japanese director, Ozu. It can be challenging getting into the world of pre-modern Japan, but rewarding to make the effort. This is classical cinema of a high order. The impact is slightly lessened by Mizoguchi's technique of filming long takes and distance shooting which does not really suit the TV format. Since you are not going to see his films at a cinema near you these dvd rentals offer us the best chance to view the work of a master film-maker.
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Otherworldly, tender and unforgettableBy a customer , 20 Oct 2013I have always enjoyed the work of Mizoguchi's contemporary, Ozu, but never seen any of the former's films. In part this is because so few are available in the UK. 'Oharu' is as good a film with which to begin as any could be. Set in a pre-modern Japan, a land of strict rules and inbuilt injustice, it tells the story of one woman's life constrained in a system where any deviation from the rule is punished. It is beautifully played by Kinuyo Tanaka, and it being in black and white looks fabulous. What makes it a great film however is the subtlety with which the story unfolds. There is no need for Mizoguchi to make obvious statements on her behalf, his skills as a story-teller do that naturally. Certainly a film I will return to in the future.
So little more to ask!By Nigel Wilson from Helmsley, North Riding of Yorkshire , 16 Jun 2011This is almost a lost film ... and it is desperately, almost unendurably, sad. Oharu is betrayed, failed, cast away at every step. No happy endings. There can be no doubt about Mizoguchis humanity and concern as he presents the tale unemphatically and concisely, but I say lost for several reasons - not especially because of the sense of desolation, if patient acceptance, with which it leaves you but for two other reasons. One is that it demands a good deal for us to take in the exact sense of the situation, especially if we are not ourselves Japanese and can only distantly perceive the social significance of customs in the seventeenth century and the Edo period. The other reason is that Mizoguchi was severely constrained in making the most of his material. His technical and financial resources were limited. Unobtrusively, nonetheless, we are given the benefit of his marvellous visual sense and his skill in directing the camera; we are given his outstanding ability to present scenes with visual as well as emotional depth and perspective ... but the technical material available was limited. Mizoguchi, as his later films would show, was one of those few directors who could use colour without letting it dominate the images or overlay their full significance. This film in particular, in its complex historical setting, really did deserve colour ... something I hardly ever say about a serious film! Here the setting is as important as the narrative: colour really would have been immensely valuable ... if it was in Mizoguchis hands! An excellent, if painful, film but perhaps a little scrappy in presentation. That is partly the effect of basing it on the seventeenth century stories by Saikaku ... and both for us and for present day Japanese viewers there have been shifts in attitudes and intentions so that ambiguities enter our responses. The stories tended to deal with Oharus own failings: Mizoguchis film focuses firmly on her heartless treatment by male society ...a fine film which deserved a little more.
Pure emotional electricityBy BrindleyBeBarassedboutBombsquare (43 reviews) from Cardiff , 17 Dec 2010
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS Show review anywayHideIn my unhumble opinion, this is the quintessence of Mizoguchi's genius.
Based on a seventeenth century novel by writer Iharu Saikaku, the narrative relates the story of a woman of noble lineage looking back on the events that shaped her decline. The germination of her downfall lies in her belief that love should be free from the codes and conventions regulating Tokugawa era Japanese society, precipitating a concatenation of events accruing this woman's tragedy.
The scene where Oharu's lower-class lover is beheaded is one of the most sublimely tragic moments I've seen in cinema. It is not merely a provocative scene of the rigours of life in seventeenth century Japan for the more romantically inclined, but also a timeless symbol of the way in which human society punishes those who fail to observe the rules of the game. It is also representative of the perfect harmony Mizoguchi achieved between camera movement and mise-en-scene.
Another illustrative example of Mizoguchi's technical virtuosity is part of the brothel sequence, the scene where the counterfeiter's deception has been exposed. As the actors scurry down each level of the house, Mizoguchi's crane, placed at a distance, tracks the the lateral and downward movements of the prostitutes and the counterfeiter, who has beat a hasty retreat. It is a tour-de-force of camera and character choreography, synchronised to perfection, and it also bears testament to Mizoguchi's masterful direction of actors, who move with a verisimilitude and autonomy perhaps only equalled by Renoir and Ophuls.
Another staple of Mizoguchi's cinema is the preponderance of long-takes and long-shots in his films. It would be deeply impertinent to assume that this distances us emotionally from his characters. Mizoguchi believed in the importance of allowing the audience to see the whole interaction between characters and to use that interaction to generate the necessary performance and emotions. which would have been lost otherwise. It is not so easy to dismiss Mizoguchi's mastery.
Perhaps the thing I love the most about the mizmeister is his scrolling, silky smooth lateral tracking shots and the way in which he often frames his characters with leaves and branches intruding in the foreground of the mise-en-scene, or tracking through bamboo groves, and the way in which he creates the feel of a real environment outside of the frame. It is because of this and many other aforementioned things that I am completely bemused by the criticisms of the supposed theatricality of the film, which is categorically untenable.
Then of course there is Mizoguchi's pantheistic or indeed Shintoistic reverence of nature, which is partly the reason why the Mizman is attributed with being responsible for making some of the most physically beautiful films in cinema history, a true aesthete. Nevertheless one could with facility read into Mizo's film the existentialist view of the coldness and indifference of nature to the suffering of human beings in an an absurd cosmos. Either which way, it all looks superlatively beautiful!
It's hard to imagine cinema getting any better than this.
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Tragedy to farceBy a customer from West Midlands, England , 03 Oct 2010A young girl's first lover is beheaded and she and her family are exiled. Then she is selected to provide an heir to a clan lord: the problem is that he likes her too much, so she is cast out (for the benefit of the clan) without any chance to see her child. Then she marries a good man who is promptly killed, and she is again destitute. Then ... Losing one husband is unfortunate, but losing one after another is just farcical.
Some reviewers like the exotic setting. However, the attitudes and actions are very similar to those of patriarchal middle-class society in 19th century England (without the beheading). Women had husbands chosen for them (still happens in some religious communities NOW). Failure to obey the father would be punished (and still is in those communities).
In own time, using a woman for breeding purposes is uncomfortably like the Charles and Di story. He was in the wrong, but she was cast off and effectively cast out of 'society' (albeit with a payoff).
It is difficult to get anything out of this miserablist film. Oharu does pretty well compared with women in many communities, and much better than her men. She does show a spark of humour at the end when she insulted, and sees the funny side. Good for her, but not worth the tedium of this very long film.
If you like exotic settings and haven't seen any of Ozu's films, then please try them. With far less 'plot', they are wonderful in their understanding and presentation of family relationships...
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TheatricalBy a customer from Langport , 08 Apr 2009Very Japanese. Theatrical and very elegant. But also fascinating.