Oyu-sama (1951)

18 05 2008

It’s possible that I’m becoming a bit burnt out with Mizoguchi, but this is definitely one of the lesser works I’ve seen from him in awhile. It has its fair share of merits, such as the usually great cinematography, but ultimately the drama is too silly to want to take seriously. This is almost a completely conventional (and uninteresting) Hollywood melodrama that is formed around a narrative that sounds like something from a Hollywood screwball comedy. Don’t get me wrong, this is far from being bad, but Mizoguchi has done this type of film many times and with better results.

Shinnosuke is introduced to Shizu, as a proposed marriage. He thinks he will have no problem falling in love with her but there is one problem, he mistakes Shizu for her sister, Oyu. Oyu is now a widow which seems to give Shinnosuke a chance, but law requires her to tend to the child, thus forbidding a re-marriage. As a reaction, Shinnosuke marries Shizu but spends all of his time with Oyu. At first, Shizu is okay with this progressive type of marriage, but Shinnosuke begins to feel bad Shizu and his attempts at loving his own wife are, ironically enough, resisted.

In some ways, this story anticipates a similar type of marriage in Naruse’s Repast. In that film, Hara decides to continue her marriage based on a mutual respect, rather than love. Such a hopeful idea is harshly treated here. In retrospect, it is sort of reactionary on Mizoguchi’s part to create the “other side” of these complicated marriages. He was vocal about his distaste for Naruse, though it mostly came from social issues. In any case, where Naruse’s film is nuanced and almost deadpan, Mizoguchi’s is over the top and silly. Of course, there’s enough visual “power” for him to rely on but dramatically speaking, this is one of his lesser efforts. Thankfully, he pulled off many similar films much more naturally in the 50s: Uwasa no onna and Gion Bayashi both come to mind. Watch those films, not this one.

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3 responses

18 05 2008
Stephen Russell

My memory of this film is foggy, but when I watched it a number of years ago in the middle of a personal Mizoguchi-athon, I remember being very impressed by it. Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of watching so many films by the same director in such a short period of time is that, as the years pass, sometimes the films dissolve into nebulousness and melt together, becoming less defined from each other. So it’d be hard for me to specifically defend at this point — that is, until I get a refresher viewing from the new MoC disc (which I plan to do soon). But anyway, here’s what I wrote about it in my journal way back when:

“This is the fifth Mizoguchi film I’ve watched this year, and it’s probably my favorite among them. It’s almost hard to believe he made the forgettable “Lady from Musashino” in the same year. There’s nothing really new in the first half of this love triangle, but the second half evolves into a kind of tragic fairy-tale, full of beautiful and masterful long-takes. Mizoguchi even throws in a “musical” sequence in which the three primary characters take turns singing. A gorgeous movie.”

19 05 2008
Michael Kerpan

I think the plot is dodgy, but not so much so as to undermine the film’s overall attractiveness. Too bad the dramatic sophistication did not come close to the visual sophistication, but still far above the level of Musashino. I do like Uwasa no onna and Gion bayashi, considerably more, but feel no hesitation in also recommending this.

20 05 2008
Jake Savage

Yeah, I’m wondering if I should avoid Musashino altogether. It’s definitely my lowest Mizoguchi-related priority at the moment.

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