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Street of Shame (Akasen Chitai)


Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi. 1956, 87 mins. 35mm print from Janus Films. With Machiko Kyo, Aiko Mimasu, Ayako Wakao. Mizoguchi’s final film is nothing less than a summation of his art. The Japanese National Diet’s debate over illegalizing prostitution is in the air, but it’s business as usual in Tokyo’s red-light district at the Dreamland salon (Hiroshi Miutani’s fantastic closed-world set). Street concerns five working girls living double-lives as daughters, mothers, wives, loan sharks, and dreamers when they are not waylaying potential clients in a terrifying pull-and-tug clamor. Machiko Kyo is a standout as Hollywood-brainwashed “Mickey” in this unusual late-period contemporary drama. Shortly after it premiered, Mizoguchi was dead of leukemia at 58—and prostitution was outlawed in Japan.

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