Asian Cinema Pick: Life of Oharu
By Giovanni Vimercati
Kyoto, the 17th century: Oharu, daughter of a samurai, is expelled from the imperial court for having secretly loved Katsunosuke, a servant. Sold by her father to a local landlord whose wife rejects her, Oharu falls off the social ladder and is stepped on. Tracing the historical implications of the world’s oldest profession via the misadventures of an unwitting representative, Mizoguchi films the pain of love and the cruel tragedy of those who are impervious to it—a parable of a disheartened and dejected female soul caught in the claws of an unforgiving patriarchal society. With the exception of the servant, every man uses Oharu to satisfy sexual urges or for vile social advantage. Mizoguchi depicts a world of ruthless cynicism bent on the humiliation of a helpless, almost spectral woman whose body bears wounds of bad faith that will never heal.