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A young widow (Kinuyo Tanaka) becomes embroiled in a devastating scandal in Kenji Mizoguchi's tale of passion, tragedy and transcendence.
A crucial Mizoguchi film, this tale of passion and transcendence stars Kinuyo Tanaka as Oyu, widowed before the age of twenty-one and unable to consider any suitor because she must raise her son to be head of the household. When Oyu rebuffs the advances of a wealthy young man, she sets tragedy in motion by suggesting that he marry her sister instead; the ensuing ménage à trois causes a devastating scandal. Working for the first time with Mizoguchi, the great cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa executes the director's elegant long takes (one lasting almost six minutes) with exquisite finesse, while the incomparable Tanaka blazes in the title role. Mizoguchi's early North American champion Andrew Sarris ranked both the film and its star very highly: "[Tanaka's] scene of claiming the child of a frustrated marriage is exultant, and the final shots of the distraught husband among marshy reeds is reminiscent of soulmate Murnau's Sunrise."