Most of Kenji Mizoguchi’s films have women at their center. Often they are suffering or have “fallen” in one way or another. However, I have never seen a Mizoguchi film that was so blatantly feminist. It’s no wonder that while it’s a period piece it was allowed to be made during the US occupation despite the rule the US had forbidding their production. The movie starts by saying:
“This film shows the painful fight of a woman in the name of freedom against the family feudal system coming from a long tradition. It is a call to new generations for true women’s liberation.”
It is indeed just that. It’s about a women who gets involved in the liberal movement between 1880-1890. She is the female counterpart to one of the male members of the movement. When the government cracks down on them she is sent to prison. She gets out when the government passes reforms and releases political prisoners. Then finds out what many female revolutionaries find, the men want them out of their usual roles when they need them, but once in power they want them back where they came from.
On the side of the main story we see a woman who is sold by her parents, impregnated by an abuser, and women workers who are treated like chattel to be used in every sense of the word.
This film is very straightforward and down the middle. Sometimes being this blunt can be effective like in Fuller’s White Dog, but here it really feels amateurish. You might like it, but to me it felt like a TV movie.