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The Life of Oharu (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Kinuyo Tanaka, Tsukie Matsuura, Ichirô Sugai, Toshirô Mifune, Toshiaki Konoe
  • Directors: Kenji Mizoguchi
  • Writers: Kenji Mizoguchi, Saikaku Ihara, Yoshikata Yoda
  • Producers: Kenji Mizoguchi, Hideo Koi, Isamu Yoshiji
  • Format: Black & White, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: July 9 2013
  • Run Time: 133 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #15,493 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

A peerless chronicler of the soul who specialized in supremely emotional, visually exquisite films about the circumstances of women in Japanese society throughout its history, Kenji Mizoguchi (Ugetsu) had already been directing movies for decades when he made The Life of Oharu in 1952. But this epic portrait of an inexorable fall from grace, starring the incredibly talented Kinuyo Tanaka (The Ballad of Narayama) as an imperial lady-in-waiting who gradually descends to street prostitution, was the movie that gained its director international attention, ushering in a new golden period for him. SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES � New high-definition digital film restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition � Introductory commentary by scholar Dudley Andrew � Mizoguchi�s Art and the Demimonde, an illustrated audio essay featuring Andrew � Kinuyo Tanaka�s New Departure, a 2009 film by Koko Kajiyama documenting the actor�s 1949 goodwill tour of the United States � New English subtitle translation � PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Gilberto Perez

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9dcb42b8) out of 5 stars 17 reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d97fea0) out of 5 stars We don't have the right to love one another June 27 2013
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on
Format: Blu-ray
'Life of O Haru' is a very characteristic movie for Kenji Mizoguchi with its theme of forbidden love, its criticism of social conventions and its realistic and incisive description of the fate of women, the behavior of males and the effect of being sincere in a society, here a feudal one.

In this feudal society, love (sexual intercourse) between a member of the nobility and a commoner is a transgression of the barrier between the social classes. When it is discovered, like in this movie, it is disastrous for the lover, the girl and her family. A real nightmare begins for the girl O Haru. Her beauty and sincerity are exploited to the bone, by brothel keepers, by those who need a male heir to ensure the continuation of the political and social power of a clan or by males (also a member of her family) in a position of 'strength '.

The choice of the scenes, of which some are extremely painful, and the angles of the shots illustrate masterfully the balance of power in a society run by absolute power (the shogun), a world without feelings and mercy. As always with K. Mizoguchi, his direction of the actors is admirable; not one false note.
This movie is a true masterpiece. A must see.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d97fef4) out of 5 stars No One Can Take Away your Dignity - But Yourself Aug. 8 2013
By Gerard D. Launay - Published on
Format: Blu-ray
During the 1990's, both my parents took a whirlwind tour throughout the Far East. When they returned, I asked them what they thought of Japan. My dad adored the country...but my mother told me this was her least favorite destination. "Why?" I inquired. My mother responded that Japan was the most patriarchal culture of all the ones she visited...and she certainly deplored any (mis)treatment of women as second class citizens.

The director Kenji Mizoguzhi obviously shared my mom's sentiments...and this theme permeates most of his films. In thinking about the director's life, he was deeply disturbed that due to failing finances, his sister was literally sold to be a geisha...yet she helped him greatly in his early career - sacrificing herself for a male of the family. And he never allowed himself to forget that moral debt.

Now to the film itself. Except for the framing sequence, Oharu starts her adult life as a valuable court attendant for the Imperial Court. Alas, she allows herself to be seduced by a man of lower class and even falls for him. This relationship violates feudal standards so much that it triggers a disturbing future of humiliations, one after another....from being a concubine forced to bear a child for a lord and then discarded, to becoming a high priced courtesan, and (near the end of the film) to becoming an aging street walker begging for clients. One of her unhappy fates is to be rewarded with a glimpse of her son ascending - who is a powerful lord - yet be prevented from meeting him. The hidden subtext of sex is common throughout the series of vignettes...since it is sex that starts the downward spiral. One of the factors that makes the film extraordinary is the exquisite acting of the lead actress Kinuyo Tanaka, who maintains a quiet, resigned dignity of Buddhist acceptance of her painful fates. The essential theme, the contrast between her true self (a good human being) versus her public self (a cheap and immoral human being), is masterfully established. It is important to note that not all indignities are committed by men...often women are equally unjust to her - and in some cases, the men come to her rescue. She even has a brief, happy marriage that is interrupted by tragedy.

The cinematography is absolutely stunning...sometimes with interesting angles from above which allows the viewer to imagine himself or herself as an angel in the sky. So many frames are perfect in terms of composition and lighting - that the whole is breathtaking. And this remains true, even though the movie proceeds at a slow but deliberate pace. When the film ended, I was more profoundly moved by it than by the better known "Sansho the Bailiff" or "Ugetsu". In my book, it deserves to be listed among the top 100 masterpieces of foreign film.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d982348) out of 5 stars Another Mizoguchi masterpiece ~ Sept. 30 2013
By Christopher Barrett - Published on
Format: Blu-ray
Mizoguchi directed many amazing films. Luckily Criterion has been able to acquire the distribution rights to several of his films. Life of Oharu has previously been widely unavailable except from certain 'ahem' boderline DVD distributors. The previous releases suffered from terrible transfer which looked like a VHS to DVD machine was used.

Gladly Criterion has brought their usual restoration quality to this gem. The picture quality on both the DVD and Blu-Ray is amazing. The Blu-Ray version was the first version I watched (thanks to my local library picking up pretty much every Criterion release).

This version also contains several extras: commentary, Mizoguchi's Art and the Demimonde: an illustrated audio essay, Kinuyo Tanaka's New Departure - a 2009 film by Koko Kajiyama and a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Gilberto Perez. The extras are not quite as eye popping as the horde of extras with Ugetsu, but I can't really complain.

This film, like many Mizoguchi films, deals with the theme of a 'fallen woman'. Like several previous films, the main female character embarks on a forbidden romance. After said romance comes into the open, bad things happen. But what makes this film so much more is that Oharu continually tries to redeem herself, but her shady past always seems to creep up on her. The viewer understands that Oharu's initial romance, while considered heinous at the time, is not one that is out of place in modern society. The initial, ill-fated romance is obvious to the viewer, and though know it will end in tragedy, we cannot help but be sad for Oharu. We also cannot help but feel compassion for her throughout the film. This human aspect of the film is what draws us in. Mizoguchi was a master at depicting humanity and engendering compassion for even his 'fallen women'.

The film is long, but unlike other reviews, I never felt it was dragging along. Each new chapter in her life is like a new chapter of a novel. The viewer is never shown overly long sections of the film. Once we're getting near complacency, something arises that throws everything into disorder and Oharu starts over again. I don't know about everyone else, but I found this to be a touching film and I would highly recommend it to any fan of Mizoguchi's films or fans of classic Japanese film in general. Just amazing.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d982708) out of 5 stars One of Mizoguchi's finest Nov. 23 2013
By Wabi Savvy - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Those with knowledge and appreciation of Japanese history and the place in society of Japanese women will be touched by this masterful film. It traces the descent of a high born woman who has just enough courage to resist total submission to the system; an affair with a lower ranking samurai marks her decline; further misadventures and defiance of harsh authority ends with her choice of life as a prostitute. A beautiful and subtle condemnation of the society of those times.
HASH(0x9d9826b4) out of 5 stars Five Stars April 24 2016
By George W. Ehlers - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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