Sisters Of The Gion

1936, Movie, NR, 70 mins

Review

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This is one of two excellent films (the other being THE OSAKA ELEGY) that director Kenji Mizoguchi made in 1936. Both were made possible by Daiichi Eiga, the failing studio for whom the director was employed, which gave him complete control before it was shuttered. Like so many of Mizoguchi's works, SISTERS OF THE GION focuses on female characters, in this case two sisters, both of whom are geishas. Umekichi (Isuzu Yamada) is the elder, an experienced prostitute who has become romantically involved with one of her former clients, a bankrupt merchant. Omocha (Yoko Umemura), the younger sister, has different ideas about men and relationships. Having seen the way men treat women, especially her sister, she decides to take the upper hand, manipulating, and ultimately to destroying, a young kimono clerk. In a twist of fate that seems to suggest that gender roles are irreversible, both sisters are victimized by the film's end. This elegant, carefully directed tale shows Mizoguchi's early talents. He manages to elicit beautiful performances from his actresses, establishing himself as one of the great directors of women, and embarking on his career as the greatest cinematic interpreter of the lives of Japanese women. From SISTERS OF THE GION's very beginning, with its rollicking jazz score, Mizoguchi demonstrates his unique mastery of the film frame, moving through the expansive space of a merchant's home in which every last piece of furniture is auctioned off--a masculine material defeat that neatly contrasts with the female romantic defeat at the film's end. (In Japanese; English subtitles.) leave a comment

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Sisters Of The Gion
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