Made just four years before director Kenji Mizoguchi's death in 1956, The Life Of Oharu was the film that gave the Japanese helmer a belated international reputation. Told mainly in flashback, it's a tragic tale charting the demise of a Samurai warrior's daughter, Oharu (Kinuyo Tanaka). An attendant at the imperial court, she's exiled into the countryside for the crime of falling in love with a man (Toshirô Mifune) of a lower social rank. Forced by her father (Ichirô Sugai) into being a concubine, she's later sold into a brothel before ending up broken and battered as a street prostitute.
It could have been a crude melodrama, but Mizoguchi prefers to contrast his serene visual style with the emotional content, which depicts how women are exploited, traded and abused in a male-dominated society. Unfolding in long takes and winding travelling shots that jettison the need for cuts or close-ups, The Life Of Oharu deserves to be appreciated on the big screen.