A review of the 1936 movie "Osaka Elegy"
Osaka Elegy, a 1936 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.
It tells the story of telephone operator Ayako Murai (played by Isuzu Yamada), whose father is in serious trouble: he is unemployed and facing arrest for embezzlement. In order to help her father avoid jail, as well as pay for her younger sister and older brother's education, Ayako agrees to become the girlfriend of her unhappily married employer, Sumiko Asai (Yoko Umemura). A decision which will have devastating consequences.
This is a dark and powerful drama. Elegantly shot, composed mostly of long takes with the action often taking place at some distance from the camera. The film deals with the inequalities and double standards facing women in Japan, and the conflicts between modernity and tradition, and men and women: Ayako is very much a modern woman while her family are very traditional and judgemental; the Asai family are completely dysfunctional, there is no love between Mr. Asai and his wife, he doesn't even try to hide the fact that he married her for her money, and all their interactions are argumentative and humiliating.