Sisters of the Gion (Gion no Shimai)
Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi. 1936, 96 mins. 35mm print from Janus Films. With Isuzu Yamada, Yoko Umemura. Along with Osaka Elegy (released the same year), this devastating portrait of courtesans scraping by in Kyoto’s “pleasure district” marked a turning point in Mizoguchi’s career. Its story of two geisha sisters—one deferential and loyal, the other defiant and mercenary—lays forth one of the earliest and most forceful expressions of the director’s central thematic concern: the subjugation of women in a callously patriarchal society.
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