Sisters of the Gion

The Taisho era's explosive meeting of old and new is central to Sisters of the Gion, an unsentimental portrait of the sex business as a losing proposition for the tradition-bound geisha and the modern girl alike. Umekichi (Yoko Umemura) and her younger sister O-Mocha (Isuzu Yamada) are both geisha operating in the Gion entertainment district of Kyoto, a world unto itself with its narrow alleyways and fishbowl atmosphere. Umekichi is trapped in her allegiance to the patronage system while O-Mocha, slyly rebellious and cynical about the merchandising of women, doesn't recognize obligation; neither does she recognize love, which is something like what Umekichi feels for her old patron, a feckless failed businessman. A subplot involving the selling of fake antiques tells us something of Mizoguchi's attitude toward the whole argument on the eve of war for Japan; his resignation is embodied in a proverb, “The drop of a single leaf tells us fall is coming.”

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