The Life of Oharu

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Year Released: 1952
Rating: 3.5

Once respectable Oharu (Kinuyo Tanaka) falls in love with a man 'beneath her station' (played by the great Toshiro Mifune) and this unfortunate affair begins her life-long downward spiral that turns her into a prostitute and, eventually, a beggar. In the expert hands of Mizoguchi what could have been a routine Fallen Woman movie is turned into a near-masterwork: as morbid and exasperating the twists of fate Oharu experiences seem, she comes across as an indestructible force, moving on from situation to situation, suffering but carrying on bravely. As a critique of Japanese society's treatment of women, it's jarring (and upsetting).