Daily Projections, 11-30-2018: Sisters of the Gion (1936)

Title: Sisters of the Gion
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Country of origin: Japan
Year: 1936
Screening format: DVD
Setting: Home
First viewing? Yes

Notes: Two geisha sisters in contemporary (1936) Japan struggling for money.Like a Tanizaki novel, Sisters of the Gion juxtaposes old Japan with with encroaching Western world. One sister,always in traditional dress, is always loyal to her patron (as tradition dictates) no matter his financial situation. The other, an educated, modern woman in western clothes, sees her role as a geisha as a degrading relic of the past. And has determined that, as long as she is forced to fill that role, it is in her best interest to use the men she serves, capitalizing on their own vanity, to milk them for all they are worth for as long as she can. In this sense, Sisters isnot unlike some other films of the era, notably Baby Face,if more subtle. The story continues along these lines culminating in the inevitable fall and final speech.

Style: More camera movement and tracking shots than I would have expected from a Japanese film of this era. While limited by technology, still some beautiful shots down long dark alleyways and corridors, shadows moving across paper windows. Several scenes filmed in a rather voyeuristic style, through doorways and open windows,even behind wooden slats. Early Mizoguchi, but easy to see where he’s headed.

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