Street of Shame

Akasen chitai

dir. Kenji Mizoguchi

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Kenji Mizoguchi's powerful account of a group of streetwalkers struggling to survive in the red-light district of contemporary Tokyo led to the outlawing of prostitution in Japan.
This overwhelming work was Mizoguchi's last, and one of his greatest — Mizoguchi authority Jean Douchet chose Street of Shame as his favourite work of Japanese cinema ("For me, along with Chaplin's M. Verdoux and Renoir's La Règle du jeu, the greatest film in the history of cinema"), and Donald Richie dubbed it "the best of all films examining the problems of women in postwar Japan." The "street of shame" runs through Tokyo's red-light district, where the women at the Dreamland brothel eke out a living for their families. Mizoguchi's wrenching portrait of this group of prostitutes, from a hard-boiled glamour girl called Mickey (Machiko Kyo) to a widow in her forties worried about her fading beauty (Ayako Wakao), was so powerful in its indictment of women's oppression that, a year after its release, it led to a government bill outlawing prostitution. "Devastating . . . A heightened realism not often seen in Japanese films at the time" (Senses of Cinema); "A grim but profoundly moving study . . . intent and heart-rending" (Time Out).