This was director Kenji Mizoguchi’s last film before his passing and it was another one that put a spotlight Japanese prostitutes. It also happens to be one of his most subtle films dealing with this subject. Usually he was very dramatic and didactic about this subject that was obviously close to heart. In this film, we just observe.
We follow the lives of some prostitutes at a brothel. A law to ban prostitution is being debated and the heads of the brothel don’t like it. They think of themselves as social workers for these girls who don’t have anywhere else to go. We learn their personal stories, but in the end only one gets away. It doesn’t matter though, because a new girl who’s a virgin shows up at their shop.
The last few minutes of the film see her being made up and put on display. She looks out into the street to see the nightly ritual of prostitutes trying to pull men into the shops. Then very scared, barely visible, reaches our her hand to ask for a man to come to her. It’s heartbreaking.
A year or so after this film came out Japan banned prostitution.