Osaka Elegy (Naniwa Ereji)
Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi. 1936, 71 mins. 35mm print from the Japan Foundation. With Isuzu Yamada, Seiichi Takegawa, Chiyoko Okura, Shinpachiro Asaka. “In this film the mature Mizoguchi style emerges for the first time,” wrote film scholar Joan Mellen. Ayako is barely making ends meet by working as a switchboard operator to support her family, so she becomes her boss’s mistress, and hardens herself into the role of a moga (“modern woman”). Mizoguchi said that Osaka Elegy was the film with which he found his true direction, and it is evidently among his most personal—Ayako’s feckless father is rumored to be based on the director’s own. Capped by a devastating final shot, it is also a trenchant social criticism, and after 1940 was banned by the military government.
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