Osaka Elegy

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Osaka Elegy
Naniwa erejii poster.jpg
1936 Japanese movie poster featuring Isuzu Yamada
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Produced by Masaichi Nagata
Written by Kenji Mizoguchi (Original Story)
Yoshikata Yoda
Starring Isuzu Yamada
Seiichi Takegawa
Chiyoko Okura
Music by Kōichi Takagi
Cinematography Minoru Miki
Edited by Tatsuko Sakane
Distributed by Shochiku[1]
Release date(s) May 28, 1936
Running time 71 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Osaka Elegy (浪華悲歌 Naniwa erejii?) is a 1936 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Mizoguchi considered the film his first serious effort as a director, and it was also his first commercial and critical success in Japan. Osaka Elegy is often considered a companion piece to Mizoguchi's next film, Sisters of the Gion, which was released the same year and featured much the same cast and crew.


Ayako Murai (Isuzu Yamada) is a young woman working as a telephone operator in 1930s Osaka. In order to pay the debts of her father, unemployed and threatened with arrest after embezzling 300 yen, she agrees to become the mistress of her employer Mr. Asai. After paying her father's debts she then continues working as a mistress, this time for another workplace admirer, Mr Fujino, in an attempt to help pay her brother Hiroshi's university tuition fees. When she attempts to fool Mr Fujino into giving her extra money, so she can marry her boyfriend Nishimura, he calls the police and she is arrested for soliciting. Upon her return home she is ostracised by her family and her boyfriend and forced to leave home.

Cast of Characters[edit]


Mizoguchi was famous for creating tragic films that feature female protagonists, especially oppressed female protagonists. To the extent that they took the woman's point of view, they are often called feminist. The protagonist of Osaka Elegy is an oppressed woman, but she is a resilient modern girl and one gets the sense that although her family and social life as she knew it is compromised by the end of the film, Ayako will remake herself and eventually her condition will improve.[2][3]

Critics have also taken a Marxist approach to the film. The film begins with big band music and city lights, implying modernity, but the body of the film shows a very hierarchical, androcentric, and conservative society. Ayako's downfall, as well as her motivation through much of the film, depends largely on the Japanese virtue of giri, the obligation to support one's superiors, especially one's parents.[4]

The Murai family is not the only one that Osaka Elegy critiques. While the Murais (aside from Ayako) represent what might be called overly traditional, the Asai family is overly materialistic. There is no love between the Asai and Mrs. Asai often reminds her husband that he married her just for her family's wealth (Mr. Asai never denies this even when challenged). All of the interactions between the Asais seen in the film are crass and humiliating and often in the company of outsiders who are uncomfortable with their behavior.[5]


  1. ^ (Japanese) accessed 26 May 2009
  2. ^ Liner notes. Osaka Elegy. The Criterion Collection, 2008. DVD.
  3. ^ Steffen, James. "Osaka Elegy." TCM. 21 January 2014.
  4. ^ Scharres, Barbara. "Osaka Elegy." The Criterion Collection. 5 June 1995. 21 January 2014.
  5. ^ Blakeslee, David. "A Journey Through the Eclipse Series: Kenji Mizoguchi's Osaka Elegy." CriterionCast. 18 May 2011. 21 January 2014.

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