Stationed atop a cluttered desk, a battery-powered radio blares commentary on an important piece of legislation. If passed, the Baishun Bōshi Hō would directly impact the lives of Yasumi, Mickey, Yumeko, Hanae, and Yorie. These five prostitutes, in the employ of the Dreamland Brothel in the Tokyo outskirts, and many others like them, would be made into criminals. Bound together by a common alienation, the role these women play for each other is both supportive and enabling. The ensemble action comes to a head when, for a set of reasons as diverse as their personalities, the ladies experiment with the notion of parting ways with their patrons.
Shame isn’t the only adjective to prowl Mizoguchi’s intimidating streets – there are howling cat-calls and frenetic physical confrontations; it’s an open air market of push comes to shove. A positively freaky theremin warbles behind the action, beaming us into a kind of misconfigured, alien world. Extravagant and erotic statues line our near vision, obstructing us from entering the brothel’s rooms with libido unengaged. Mizoguchi holds us complicit in the agony and glory of these women through a thorough and unsettling demonstration: the complete breakdown of a prostitute.
- Streets of Shame (Mizoguchi 1956) @ BAM/PFA #JapaneseDivas