Whether or not Mizoguchi was a “feminist” filmmaker, as claimed by many male critics who simply meant he loved and understood women, Sisters of Gion could argue that he was: it clearly expresses “feminist” protest against a profession entirely based on the physical, emotional, and economic exploitation of women, against the gender discrimination that defines the existence of women in patriarchal society.
Sisters of Gion is about two contrasting geisha sisters: the elder sister accepting and willing to comply with patriarchal gender roles, the younger-whose name is Omocha and literally means ‘toy’-ironically embodies the nature of her profession, rebelling against her fate at the hands of willful men. Creating an unforgettably rebellious, defiant heroine, played with exceptional force and subtlety by Yamada Isuzu, one of the greatest actresses of all time, this film is an astute, uncompromising depiction of the bleak reality of a woman trapped in a society of male dominance. Behind Omocha’s cunning and mercenary manipulations lies deep resentment and exists a struggle against the system of exploitation.
From its long opening tracking shot to the searing final shot with the heroine’s painful and unforgiving denunciation of her profession, the film’s superb acting and visual style capture us cinematically and emotionally. (Saito Ayako)
MIZOGUCHI Kenji MIZOGUCHI Kenji