The Life of Oharu

(Saikaku ichidai onna)

Lecture/screening class (3 hours). Special admission applies.

  • Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Life of Oharu

    Director of the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities at UC Berkeley

One of the ten greatest films in the history of cinema.

Derek Malcolm

Kinuyo Tanaka, Toshiro Mifune, Ichiro Sugai, Hisako Yamane,

Mizoguchi considered The Life of Oharu his masterpiece, and critics have placed it among the greatest films of all time. Based on a seventeenth-century novel by Saikaku, The Woman Who Loved Love, it chronicles the decline of a beautiful court lady who is exiled, along with her family, for loving a page. Sold by her father as a courtesan, she is gradually stripped of social respectability until she is reduced to prostitution and beggary. Mizoguchi was said to have aestheticized women’s suffering (his heroines lack the disillusionment of Naruse’s, the serenity of Ozu’s). The same cannot be said for the great actress Kinuyo Tanaka, Mizoguchi’s muse, however. Through all of Oharu’s degradations and transformations, Tanaka is the wick in the candle, keeping an epic tale of a woman being punished for her sexuality—right up until the last “incident in my lost life”—painfully on topic.  

Judy Bloch
  • Yoshikata Yoda
Based On
  • the novel by Ihara Saikaku

  • Yoshimi Hirano
  • Japanese
  • with English subtitles
Print Info
  • B&W
  • 35mm
  • 136 mins
  • Janus Films/Criterion Collection