Osen works as a servant girl for an unscrupulous dealer, Kumazawa, who takes in the penniless Sokichi Hata. When Kumazawa is arrested, Osen agrees to help Sokichi finance his dream of going to medical school.
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There are problems with the characterizations - the villains do everything short of twirling their mustaches; the film's good boy spends most of his time weeping and staring groundward, bereft of all but chastest thoughts for lovely Osen - and the "boy" is played by an actor who's far too old. But all this: beside the point. Mizoguchi's most autobiographical film is glorious cinema, all reservations fall away.
Maybe the greatest of early Mizoguchi's masterpieces. Osen is gradually crushed by the patriarchal universe; her descent into madness is the voice of Reason in a mad world of complicity, exploitation, rigid hierarchies, facile hedonism, all told with a multitide of techniques in this nocturnal film of despair coupled to dim revelations of enlightenment. The emblematic Yamada's face speaks volumes in this silent gem.
Dernier film parlant du cinéaste, charpenté d'une superbe construction scénaristique pour une oeuvre magnifique, dont nous avons pu voir une version sonorisée musicalement, mais non surchargée par l'intervention parlée d'un benshi, au festival du film muet de Pordenone (2006). Ce qui n'est pas le cas pour la version dvd qui reprend la ponctuation verbale originale. www.cinefiches.com