Gion no shimai

祇園の姉妹 - Gion no shimai

Sisters of the Gion

DVD - 2008 | Japanese
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Two geisha sisters - one modern-minded, the other staunchly traditional - disagree over how to deal with the men controlling their lives and livelihoods.
Publisher: [Irvington, N.Y.] : The Criterion Collection, 2008
ISBN: 9781604650938
Branch Call Number: JAPANESE DVD GION NO
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (69 min.) : sound, black and white ; 4 3/4 in
Language Note: In Japanese with optional English subtitles
Alternative Title: Sisters of the Gion


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Froster Jul 21, 2015

YAY. Finally a Mizoguchi film with an unabashedly Feminist point of view. (I thought I was looking for one through his oeuvre in vain). Although the oldest film of his I’ve seen, it seems to have the most contemporary sensibility. And though it depicts a hermetic, cloistered world, it is the one with the most prophetic and expansive spirit. Yes, these women are victims of their circumstances, and they are punished most grievously….like other more modern Mizoguchi releases, but without the melodrama. Worth viewing, definitely.

Dec 05, 2014

Daring by western standards at the time, Mizoguchi’s sad tale of female exploitation has lost most of its sting although the underlying message is just as pertinent today. Geisha sisters Umekichi and O-Mocha ply their trade in the “pleasure district” of Kyoto. When Mr. Furusawa, one of Umekichi’s regular clients, falls on hard times he decides to move in with the two women much to O-Mocha’s displeasure. Although her older sister looks upon the newly bankrupt and unhappily married Furusawa with pity and compassion, O-Mocha has become embittered to the way men “pay money to treat us as playthings” and insists that Umekichi dump the penniless man and look for a wealthy benefactor to support her instead. To this end she concocts a series of underhanded schemes, using men the way they’ve used her, to not not only get rid of Furusawa but land both her and her sister a pair of rich patrons in the process. Of course things go terribly awry and both women are taught a harsh lesson on how little their lives mean to the men who seek their services. A cold and unhappy tale which has its heart in the right place but nevertheless ends with an angry monologue by O-Mocha which sounds more like a prepared statement than a howl of despair.

Dec 03, 2012

The film ("Gion no shimai" or Sisters of The Gion: 祇園の姉妹) follows the parallel paths of the independent, unsentimental Omocha (Isuzu Yamada:山田五十鈴) and her sister, the more traditional Umekichi (Yoko Umemura:梅村蓉子), both geisha in the working-class district of Gion.
Kenji Mizoguchi's film is a brilliantly shot, uncompromising look at the forces that keep many women on the bottom rung of the social ladder.
The tragic ending largely confirms Omocha's jaundiced view of the role of the geisha in a male dominated society.
Her view is surprisingly feminist for its time and place.


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