This may seem melodramatic to some and it progresses in rather "elliptical" fashion through incidents (often observed by servants) rather than rounding out scenes with gradual character development. But any flaws are amply compensated for by preserving an elegant languid mystery and a surpassing beauty- visually, even by Mizoguchi's standards, it's really quite something. It awaits its due respect.
A fierce rebuttal of the role Japanese women play in their postwar society, to my regard one of Mizoguchi's most morally provocative films, since the values and emotions it elicits counterpoint our sense of good and evil and the atributes we usually associate with each of them, providing for an ultimately somber and pessimistic view of life. A film that will certainly force you to rethink certain moviegoing habits.
The point with this film's not only Yuki's weakness, as a conservative woman of upper class at the dawn of modern Japan, but is Mizoguchi's alternative for her. Her opposite in the film is her husband's mistress: a so called modern woaman who's just as dependant as Yuki on men. She can't release herself too, as Yuki says, because she's haunted by the pseudo-demon of her female body. The alternative is the new servant
Superlative Mizoguchi film with a quintessentially bold and tragic female character. Yuki's materialist/physicalist feminism clashes, as expected, with rigid societal norms and the embourgeoisement followed by the Meiji era. Here, the venture is all the more awesome because it harmonizes with the ethereal cinematic form and delivers a majestic final sequence in the misty lake, typical of Japanese 'reconciliation'.