Street of Shame (1956)

by guest writer

Akasen Chitai (Street of Shame) is sadly the last movie made by the Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi. The director follows a path, throughout his career, that often leads him to the theme of oppressed women in modern or feudal Japan.

Unlike some of his early works, among which we can name Yoru no Onnatachi aka Women of the night (1948), Mizoguchi detaches himself from the sentimental and lyrical tone to a cold, naturalistic observation. The district of Yoshiwara is part of a rapidly changing Japan, a place where prostitution is at home. In order to offer a perfectly natural presentation of the pleasure district, the director uses the psychological approach in depicting five such women of different backgrounds, value systems and motivations. One of the examples of Mizoguchi’s skilful management of audience perspective through camera work is the scene leading the middle-aged character, Yumeko, into insanity after her son rejects her. Street of shame uses camera long takes so that the construction of the film benefits in linearity and as a whole just like a precious artifact.

photo: still from the film, production credits

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