A trio of Japan's finest actresses-Kinuyo Tanaka, Isuzu Yamada, and Hideko Takamine-star in this revealing picture of traditional geishas facing the decline of their way of life and the specter of prostitution in the mid-1950s. Under the watchful gaze of a maid (Tanaka), who is possibly the only one in the establishment to fully comprehend the situation, Tsutayakko (Yamada), the proud mistress of the house, goes about trying to save it from becoming either a restaurant or a brothel-all the while denying that the end is at hand as she plays her samisen. “Like tearing the wings off a bird” is how a friend observes her situation-before buying her out. Everything is a financial transaction. The atmosphere of togetherness among these women all living under one roof, the comings and goings in the alleyway, the gorgeous compositions in which everyone watches everyone's back-all illusory. In the language of the film, “It's not what it seems; it's very geisha-like.”

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