Says Kaneto Shindo, "Mizoguchi was totally and utterly Japanese. He was unique in that he was not in any way influenced by the directors of the West. He preferred long takes, and managed to squeeze into that one take all the trials and tribulations of life." Shindo's "The Life of a Film Director" concerns itself with the life and work of Kenji Mizoguchi.
Presented in a manner as eerie as it is heartbreaking, this film is a gorgeous supernatural fable about the folly of men with dreams larger than their abilities and their women who suffer as a result. Genjuro (Masuyaki Mori) is a potter who longs for wealth and luxury, while Tobei (Sakae Ozawa), a farmer, dreams of the glories of the samurai to the point of ignoring his wife. Though a war rages around them, they venture to town to sell their wares. Genjuro becomes bewitched by a beautiful though vengeful ghost (Machiko Kyo), while his wife is murdered by a soldier; Tobei becomes a noted warrior, while his wife descends into prostitution after being raped while searching for her husband.
Life of Oharu features Kinuyo Tanaka in the title role. Oharu is a middle-aged prostitute in 17th century Japan. As she prays before a statue of Buddha, Oharu reviews her past. Her road to degradation began when, as a teenager, she disgraced her family by falling in love with a samurai (Toshiro Mifune). Oharu became the mistress of a prince, who cast her off after she bore his son. She was then sold into prostitution by her father, and thus began a catch-as-catch-can existence alternating between brief happiness with those she genuinely loved and servitude to those she despised. A potential happy ending, reuniting her with her royal son, is dashed by the much-maligned Oharu herself, who opts for the life of a beggar. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, a lifelong advocate of equitable treatment for Japanese women, Life of Oharu was adapted from a novel by Saikaku Ibara.