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The Life of Oharu: BD Review

Jul 17th, 2013

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This beautiful new Criterion high-def release is considered one of the best Japanese films of all time...

Criterion / 136 Minutes / 1952 / Unrated / Street Date: July 9, 2013

Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1952 film The Life of Oharu is considered one of the greatest films ever made. No Mizoguchi effort has played significantly when it comes to specifically American appreciation, but on a global scale, the director is heavily admired, and this melodrama is commonly cited as his grandest achievement.

For me, though, Mizoguchi has always slipped through the cracks a bit. The formalism on hand in a movie like The Life of Oharu is easily appreciated – the guy has a sturdy and consistent tone when it comes to his films’ narrative establishments – but I must admit to finding a coldness within his works that leaves any potential emotional entanglements at bay. You would think that as poor Kinuyo Tanaka makes the long fall from high society to street trash in Oharu that you’d ache for her, that your heart would swell as she stumbles towards an ignoble death, but for me, that moment never arrives.

Perhaps I’m the exception to the rule, though. The fact is that The Life of Oharu is a title that has long been requested in terms of being added to Criterion’s ever-widening slate, and even though this Blu-ray edition isn’t exactly bursting with supplemental material, it still looks and sounds like a million bucks. Mizoguchi fans rejoice!

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