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Street of Shame
(Akasen Chitai)

Screening on Film
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.
With Machiko Kyo, Aiko Mimasu, Ayako Wakao.
Japan, 1956, 35mm, black & white, 87 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA

Released just months before his premature death by leukemia, Mizoguchi’s final film interweaves portraits of five prostitutes working in “Dreamland,” a brothel in Tokyo’s notorious and then historic Yoshiwara red-light district. Street of Shame is unsparing and forcefully direct in its refusal to romanticize the life or figure of the prostitute by unflinchingly revealing the full sordid dimensions of her tawdry, tattered world. Released after months of extended debate about an anti-prostitution law which is even discussed within the film, Street of Shame is claimed to have given the final impetus to the ban’s final establishment. Yoshikata Yoda, feeling unsatisfied with his last script about prostitutes, Women of the Night, declined his last chance to work with Mizoguchi who turned to Masashige Narusawa (Princess Yang Kwei-Fei, Tales of the Taira Clan).

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