This film ia not my favorite Mizo by a long shot... it wanders headlong into Mouchette territory in that it bangs a cinematic gong of just never-ending torment of the principal character, producing a film of unrelenting suffering without letup.
In his rendering of female tragedy, give me anything in for example the eclipse set over this film... although there ia undoubtedly an awful lot to comment Oharu. There are some absolutely dazzling moments which as set pieces rival anything in the man's glorious canon.
I think Tanaka is just as responsible for making this film work as much as Mizoguchi is, if only because being hit by constant waves of misfortune would be unbearable if a lesser actress was asked to endure such a thing. In a way, this might not even be the hardest Mizoguchi for him, even as it is, on the surface, easily the most brutal. It's not just that she's that
good, it's that she's familiar with this kind of treatment. An interesting film to contrast it with is Oyu-sama
, which I would argue to be Mizoguchi's very worst, yet it also contains Tanaka and a similar tone. There's something to be said about pathos in favor of melodrama, and I use the latter phrase in the typical, "unacademic" sense of fiction that isn't believable. This one works for me because even as it is something of torture, it still feels somewhat grounded in reality, which is a result of many things, but I certainly think Mizoguchi's admiration for Tanaka personally may have contributed.
On a similar note, it's probably worth mentioning that Mizoguchi himself wasn't exactly a great humanitarian with his performers. Perhaps something to think about the next time I take the downward spiral with Oharu.