By Tan Ming Hua:


The Life Of Oharu or Saikaku Ichidai Onna is a 1952 film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi about a women’s fall from grace as a court lady to a street prostitute. It portrays a woman’s plight in a patriarchal control. In a society ruled by men where women are discriminated against and have no say in their lives, her fate is the reflection of many Japanese women in the century (Robert N. Cohen).

Prostitutes often appear in Kenji Mizoguchi’s films, such as Street of Shame (1956). He frequents brothels to socialise instead of indulgence, since his father sold his sister who took care of him as a geisha, similar to Oharu’s plight in this film. (Roger Ebert)

Mizoguchi prefers to film melodramas, and usually stage highly charged scenes in long shots which seems to last very long. He exploits long takes in unprecedented ways such as having 200 shots in Oyuki The Virgin (Maria no Oyuki 1935).


I took this still picture of Oharu from the movie and it shows how she longs for a better life. Her bleak expression implies her hopelessness in life, how she wants to die yet she cannot. The dark blue signifies misfortune, and how it always surrounds her wherever she goes, whatever she does.

The simplicity of this photo is a contradiction to the complexity of her life, how ironic it is that her complicated life is in contrast to how simple this still take is.

Cohen, R. 1992. Critical Essay by Robert N. Cohen Summary. [online] Available at: http://www.bookrags.com/criticism/kenji-mizoguchi-1898-1956/8/ [Accessed: 20 Jun 2013].

Ebert, R. 2012. The Life of Oharu Movie Review (1952) | Roger Ebert. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-life-of-oharu-1952 [Accessed: 20 Jun 2013].

Ming Hua lives life crossing over the lines she drew.


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