T. int.: Dame Okichi Sog., Scen.: Matsutaro Kawaguchi. F.: Kichishiro Uchizumi. Su.: Itsuki Morita, Shigenobu Suzuki. Int.: Isuzu Yamada (Ojo Okichi), Yoko Umemura (Otsune), Komako Hara (Okane), Shinpachiro Asaka (Ninzaburo), Shin Shibata (Yakichi), Toshio Hayashi (Hanjiro), Kasuke Koizumi (Senta), Ryunosuke Kumoi (Shohei), Tadashi Torii (Kiyoji), Shizuko Takizawa (Osaki). Prod.: Shochiku
35mm. D.: 64′. Bn.
Another rarity for admirers of Mizoguchi, this film for many years was not even listed in his filmographies, at least in Western languages. The reason for this is that Mizoguchi did not serve as sole director, but collaborated with Tatsunosuke Takashima, who had worked on the screenplays of The Field Poppy, Maria no oyuki (Oyuki the Virgin, 1935), and the earlier lost film Aizo toge (The Mountain Pass of Love and Hate, 1934). The film is Takashima’s only directorial credit, but he is first billed, and it is unclear as to how considerable was Mizoguchi’s own contribution. Yet David Bordwell suggests the film is characteristic of the master both in plot and style. Its narrative, like that of the earlier Orizuru Osen (Downfall of Osen, 1935) focuses on a woman (played by Mizoguchi’s regular star Isuzu Yamada) involved with a duplicitous gang who becomes emotionally committed to an innocent young man. Bordwell writes that the film “also has some typically Mizoguchian scenes that dwell on chiaroscuro melancholy. Much of the film takes place at night, and this strategy reinforces the somber atmosphere. There are some remarkably opaque long shots and one moment that includes Okichi turning toward the camera in a sort of plaintive challenge”. Like The Field Poppy above, this film was produced by Daiichi Eigasha, a company founded in 1934 by Masaichi Nagata, former head of production at Nikkatsu’s Kyoto studio, and staffed by other former Nikkatsu employees. Daiichi filmed at premises leased from period-film star Chiezo Kataoka’s independent studio, but since Shochiku distributed and funded the new studio’s product, it became in effect a subsidiary of Shochiku, used by that studio to make inroads into Nikkatsu’s traditional market. Though Daiichi survived only for two years, it produced some of Mizoguchi’s key early sound films, including the twin masterpieces Naniwa ereji (Osaka Elegy) and Gion no kyodai (Sisters of Gion, both 1936), which marked his transition from the relatively romantic, stylised manner of his silent films to a realistic focus on the experiences of modern Japanese women.
Alexander Jacoby e Johan Nordström