The Downfall of Osen

A pivotal work in Mizoguchi's career, The Downfall of Osen bridged the silent and sound periods: although structured as a silent film, with intertitles, it has a voice-over by a benshi, the traditional live narrator of Japanese silent films. Remarkable for its narrative structure, which unfolds largely in flashback, it tells of a woman (played by Isuzu Yamada, Mizoguchi's leading star of the thirties) who sacrifices everything, including her body, her freedom, and her sanity, so that the younger man she loves can achieve success. Now mentally ill, Osen is found sitting, staring, in a railway waiting room while, on the crowded platform nearby, a doctor recalls the woman whose sacrifices put him through medical school. The author Kyoka Izumi is as emblematic of an era as he is of Mizoguchi's quintessential tragic themes (also see The Water Magician, November 12). Seijun Suzuki based the period piece Kageroza on an Izumi story, with very different results (see November 26).

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