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Tony Grist

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Mizoguchi's Life of O-Haru [Jul. 7th, 2004|10:48 am]
Tony Grist

Kurosawa would never have tackled a subject like this. He is interested in active people- people who make a difference- and the point about O-Haru is that she is entirely helpless.

Helpless in a society of helpless people. Even those who abuse O-Haru are trapped. The Lords (father and son) are the prisoners of their courts. This is society without any give. People who threaten its codes- O-Haru's low-born lover, the forger, the thief she runs off with- are all immediately slapped down.

O-Haru's virtue is endurance. She carries on in spite of everything. Reduced to beggary, she bows her head as she passes a pagoda. Thy will be done.

But there is no consolation in religion. When she seeks shelter inside a temple, the ranked boddhisattvas present her with a wall of indifference. Remote, uncaring, and all male, they are simply a translation into the spiritual sphere of the hierarchy that has used and rejected her.

The worst abuser of all is the "old religious man" who hires her so he can  display her to his disciples as an object lesson in degradation- a goblin cat.  She has nothing more to lose; demonized, she becomes a demon with a demon's power to disrupt and alarm.  She advances on the old fraud, waggles her fingers and goes "boo"- and momentarily scares him out of his dignity.  It is the film's most heartening moment. 

(At the beginning- where the old whores gather round the brushwood fire- is this a conscious echo of Villon's La Belle Heaulmiere?)


[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-07-07 08:32 am (UTC)
When I was in Japan visiting father's family, his half sister, who is full Japanese, used to marvel about my things. She would hold my lip gloss to her aging mother, put some on her finger and rub it to the old woman's lips exclaiming what I vaguely understood to be, "peach and champagne! It's like peach and champagne!" before turning to me and saying, "your generation is so free, like birds."

At that time, being younger and living in a different sort of opporession altogether, I thought she was absolutely mad. Until I stumbled on The Life of an Amorous Woman and truly began to understand what it means to live in the society that I do. I still talk to her and she tells me how it all was for her, so much later, and yet so little changed.

It's interesting to think I come from that culture as well, when all I have known has been freedom and opportunity. Even when I turn to my mother's family in South America, I see that I have more freedom than any of them will ever know or understand.

It's liberating and terrifying.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-07-07 10:21 am (UTC)
The Life of O-Haru is a frightening film. I find it hard to imagine what it must be like to be so utterly under the control of others.

Is O-Haru an amorous woman? It's hard to say. Has she any space to develop desires of her own? Other people order, persuade and force her into action. She is entirely their creation, the sum total of their projections. And yet there is a centre to her- too ill-formed to be called a personality-which nothing is able to break.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-07-07 03:50 pm (UTC)
I think the questions of social construct and self is the pivotal point of the film, and the reason it is so far-reaching. There is a stunted sense of self, which lingers, despite the constrictive surroundings, like a golden lily, a foot bound into smallness that will never be what we see as normal, but which still beholds its own anatomical place within a body.

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