1936 Japanese movie poster featuring Isuzu Yamada
|Directed by||Kenji Mizoguchi|
|Produced by||Masaichi Nagata|
|Written by||Kenji Mizoguchi (Original Story)|
|Music by||Kōichi Takagi|
|Edited by||Tatsuko Sakane|
|May 28, 1936|
Osaka Elegy (浪華悲歌 Naniwa erejii) (originally Naniwa Elegy) 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.
Although not among Mizoguchi's best-known works, Osaka Elegy continues to be acclaimed by critics.
Sonosuke Asai (Benkai Shiganoya) is the owner of the Asai Drug Company. He is unhappily married to Sumiko (Yoko Umemura), and they are mutually unkind to one other. Mr Asai tries to get one of his employees, telephone operator Ayako Murai (Isuzu Yamada), to meet him for dinner. She discusses this after work with a male colleague (and apparently boyfriend), Mr Nishimura, revealing that her father is in serious difficulties: unemployed and threatened with arrest after embezzling 300 yen.
After an argument at home she decides to take up Mr Asai's offer and become his mistress. She quits her job and lives alone in a modern apartment block, bored and waiting for Mr Asai. When they attend a Bunraku puppet show, Dr Yoko calls them out. His wife greets them, furious that they are having an affair. However, Mr Fujino, a business acquaintance of Asai intervenes, lying that Ayako was his date, not Asai's.
Ayako accidentally meets Mr Nishimura and explains her geisha-like attire as being due to now working in a beauty salon. She is told that her father is now working at her old company for Mr Asai. Mr Nishimura asks to marry her and she runs off in embarrassment. Due to a misunderstanding, the doctor goes to Mr Asai's house when he is told Asai is ill and the wife guesses that he is with Ayako and tracks him down in his sick-bed with Ayako tending him. Mrs Asai demands that the affair ends and it does, but Ayako has paid her father's debt and keeps her apartment.
Ayako learns that her brother needs 200 yen for his tuition fees and sends the money, acquiring it from her new admirer, Mr Fujino. She leaves Fujino once she has the necessary 200 yen and contacts her old love, Nishimura, confessing everything to him and hoping they can still marry. Mr Fujino comes to her door, demanding she returns the 200 yen, but Ayako responds with disrespect and he leaves, saying there will be trouble.
The police then interview Ayako and Nishimura. Ayako hears Nishimura say that he never wanted to marry her and was dragged into the affair, and he is released. As it is her first offence, she is also released without charge, but into the care of her father. At their home, Hiroshi is there and Ayako joins them and tries to make conversation. Her sister says she can no longer go to school due to the story being in all the papers. Her brother calls her a delinquent and says she should leave. Ayako leaves into the night and stops at a bridge. The doctor passes and she asks if there is a cure for delinquency. He answers in the negative and walks off, leaving her alone and homeless in the dark night.
Cast of characters
- Isuzu Yamada as Ayako Murai
- Yoko Umemura as Sumiko Asai
- Chiyoko Okura as Sachiko Murai, Ayako's little sister
- Shinpachiro Asaka as Hiroshi Murai, Ayako's father
- Benkei Shiganoya as Sonosuke Asai
- Eitarō Shindō as Yoshizo Fujino
- Kunio Tamura as Dr. Yoko
- Seiichii Takekawa as Junzo Murai
- Kensaku Hara as Susumu Nishimura
- Takashi Shimura as Inspector
- Mitani the chauffeur
Mizoguchi is acclaimed for his tragic films featuring female protagonists, especially oppressed female protagonists. To the extent that they take a woman's point of view, they are called feminist. The protagonist of Osaka Elegy is an oppressed woman, but a resilient "modern girl" as well, and many believe it is suggested that although her family and social life are compromised by the end of the film, Ayako will remake herself and her condition will eventually improve.
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.
The Murai family is not the only one that Osaka Elegy criticises. Whilst 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 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 argumentative and self-humiliating when in the company of outsiders.
- (in Japanese) http://www.jmdb.ne.jp/1936/bl002030.htm accessed 26 May 2009
- Liner notes. Osaka Elegy. The Criterion Collection, 2008. DVD.
- Steffen, James. "Osaka Elegy." TCM. 21 January 2014.
- Scharres, Barbara. "Osaka Elegy." The Criterion Collection. 5 June 1995. 21 January 2014.
- Blakeslee, David. "A Journey Through the Eclipse Series: Kenji Mizoguchi's Osaka Elegy." CriterionCast. 18 May 2011. 21 January 2014.
- "Osaka Elegy (1936) on RT". RottenTomatoes. Retrieved October 11, 2015.