Sunday, September 17, 2006


The scene in Life of Oharu (1952) that begins with the above image: the scene where Oharu sees her son for the first time since she gave birth to him, the second of three times in her life. Oharu plays music and begs (like a woman she met earlier in the film). The camera moves up to reveal, in the background deep to Oharu's left, a procession from palace gates. The heroine puts down her instrument, scurries over to catch a glimpse as the palanquin is lowered. Her biological son, the future Lord Matsudaira, is given a snack. The procession moves on, leaving Oharu behind. She curls up on the mat where she played her sad song before, but plays nothing now. She puts her hands into her sleeves, and shivers. One of the most heartwrenching moments in the cinema; also one of the most intelligent uses of space. As he does so often, Mizoguchi "opens up" the frame to reveal a deeper truth than is originally presented in the first image of a sequence--the movement of the camera, the range and authority of its vision, make clear relations, causes, injustices, appeals that are otherwise submerged.

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