Sisters of the Gion

"1936 may be considered the year when, in a Japanese film world ruled by sentimentalism and heroism, realism came into its own. The evidence is Kenji Mizoguchi's film Sisters of the Gion,” Akira Shimizu wrote. In telling the story of two sisters, both geisha in the Gion entertainment district of Kyoto, Mizoguchi strips away the romantic veneer of the geisha business. Of the two sisters, the elder is trapped in her allegiance to the traditional ways of the geisha, while the younger is slyly rebellious and cynical about the merchandising of women. In the end, neither can truly escape her predicament. Both in the story and in a starkly beautiful visual style in which the camera maintains "a certain distance from the action" (his words), Mizoguchi capitalizes on the narrow alleyways and shuttered windows of the Gion to create a milieu closed off to the traditional machinations of well-meaning narrative.

This page may by only partially complete. For additional information about this film, view the original entry on our archived site.