Her Mother's Profession (Uwasa no onna) (Directors Suite) (1954)

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Released 19-May-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-by Dr Barbara Hartley, Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Four Directors Suite trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 80:06 (Case: 83)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kenji Mizoguchi
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Kinuyo Tanaka
Tomoemon Otani
Yoshiko Kuga
Eitarô Shindô
Bontarô Miake
Chieko Naniwa
Haruo Tanaka
Hisao Toake
Michiko Ai
Sachiko Mine
Kimiko Tachibana
Teruyo Hasegawa
Teruko Daimi
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Toshirô Mayuzumi


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Her Mother's Profession (Uwasa no onna) translates literally into English as 'The Woman in the Rumour'. In this case, the woman who is the subject of rumours within her community is widowed brothel owner Hatsuko Mabuchi (Kinuyo Tanaka). This is because of her relationship with a younger man, Dr. Kenji Matoba (Tomoemon Otani). This type of relationship was out of the ordinary for Japanese couples of the early 1950s. The woman in the rumour, or subject of the rumour, may also be Hatsuko's daughter, Yukiko Mabuchi (Yoshiko Kuga) who we see at the beginning of the film recovering from an attempted suicide due to a break-up with a boyfriend.

     Hatsuko actively seeks the attention of the Geisha House doctor, whose responsibility it is to make sure that girls are free from sexually transmitted diseases. Yukiko rejects her mother's lifestyle by dressing in western clothing and rebelling against her mother's wishes to take over the business. Instead Yukiko goes to university to get an education, something that was only possible as a result of reforms placed on Japanese society after World War II.

     It seems a strange thing that Kenji Mizoguchi may want to set a plot for a film almost exclusively in a geisha house, but the often repeated story of his sister being given up for adoption and then sold into prostitution to support his family when Mizoguchi was a child by his father to service his debts, is the basis for many of Mizoguchi's tragedies. In this film, again we see a young girl who is willing to be sold into prostitution to support her family but is refused. The young girl is desperate to support her family but Yukiko finds another solution. In Mizoguchi films we see male authority figures as being incompetent; it's the females whose status he raises by being either courageous in suffering unjustly or by maintaining independent values.

     Another sub-plot for Her Mother's Profession is the cultural gap between middle-aged and youth in post-World War II Japan. Yukiko rejects her mother's lifestyle at the beginning of the film. We see her wearing western dress, seeking an education at university, and even eventually falling in love with her mother's suitor. Mizoguchi's fellow contemporary director Yasujiro Ozu explored the same themes of the modernisation of Japan, the influence of the West and the cultural gap between parents and children in films such as Late Spring, Tokyo Story and Good Morning. However, Ozu set his films in a traditional household setting, not a geisha house in Kyoto. The other unique facet of this film is the fact that Yukiko helps her mother in her illness by taking over management of the geisha house at the end of the film. The reason this plot point stands out is because most Japanese films of this era highlight mother-son or father-daughter relationships, not mother-daughter as in this film. Both the male leads in Her Mother's Profession are incompetent or untrustworthy, as is usual for the Mizoguchi style.

     Soon after this film was released in 1954, laws governing Geisha houses changed in Japan, so the contractual bonds that forced women to work to earn their freedom, as is seen in the film, no longer applied.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The image transfer is quite solid, with good contrast and detail.

     The aspect ratio is 1:33:1, not 16x9 enhanced.

     The main presentation is featured on a single-layered DVD 4.3 gb in size. The average bitrate is a consistent 6.18 m/b per sec.

     The film looks quite sharp at times, with excellent shadow detail. As Her Mother's Profession was shot on a set, the extra attention to detail that Mizoguchi gave here to lighting each scene shows. Black-and-white tones and shades of grey are quite distinct. Sometimes the contrast fluctuates, but not often; it is quite stable.

     There are minimal film artefacts. This includes white scratch marks at 6:00 and black lines across the screen at 62:00. There is also a prolonged instance of minor telecine wobble from 42:00 to 44:00.

     Subtitles are presented in a default white or yellow option, however, be warned as these are smaller than previous subtitling authored on Madman Directors Suite DVD's.

     There is no RSDL change as Her Mother's Profession is presented on a single-layered DVD.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The main audio soundtrack is a Japanese mono Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 224 kbps. The audio commentary is encoded in English in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 kbps also.

     Dialogue is mainly clear and synchronised as there is a slight background hiss and occasional crackle in the audio transfer.

     Toshiro Mayuzumi’s score accompanies the movie and it utilises a modern 1950s score, but there are occasional traditional Japanese instrumentation heard, as in the Noh theatre scenes for instance. However background music is sparse as the film is dialogue-driven.

     There is no surround channel usage as the main soundtrack is in mono. The subwoofer is not utilised either.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary by Dr. Barbara Hartley, Head of School, Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies, University of Tasmania

    This audio commentary by Dr. Hartley may be the most academically comprehensive commentary I have ever had to critique. Dr. Hartley provides a wealth of information, not just about Kenji Mizoguchi, but about Japanese culture and traditions relevant to the film. She states intricate features of the plot and discusses their importance, from the unique feature for 1950s Japanese cinema of the central mother-daughter relationship, the need for women of lower-classes to work in geisha houses to support their families financially, the socially-awkward nature of the relationship between Hatsuko and the doctor because of their age gap. She also discusses Kinuyo Tanaka's relationship with Kenji Mizoguchi, stating that their relationship is reflected in the film. The Mizoguchi signature long-take, mis-en-scene and use of diagonals in framing are also expounded upon by Dr. Hartley. I would recommend listening to this commentary more than once, simply to take in its wealth of knowledge on the film.

Theatrical Trailer (3:29)

    The original theatrical trailer shows exactly what the film looked like before it was restored....full of scratches, dust and dirt!

Directors Suite Trailers

    Four Directors Suite trailers are included for Akira Kurosawa's The Bad Sleep Well and Ikiru, Wong Kar-wai's 2046 and Jean-Luc Godard's 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Her Mother's Profession has been released in Region 2 in the United Kingdom by Masters of Cinema under its traditional Japanese title, Uwasa no onna. This comes in a two-disc release with Chikamatsu monogatari. The extras include video discussions on both films by Tony Rayns which both run for 12-13 minutes, original trailers and a 56-page booklet containing an essay by Mark le Fanu on Chikamatsu monogatari, English translations of Ihara Saikaku's 1686 'What the Seasons Bought the Almanac Maker' and the opening section of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's 'The Almanac of Love'. An extract from Keiko L. McDonald's long out-of-print book, Mizoguchi, looks at Uwasa no onna and states that the work is a long way from Mizoguchi at his best.

     In my opinion, the video discussions by Tony Rayns and the booklet, together with the inclusion of Chikamatsu monogatari makes the Region 2 Masters of Cinema release the best available on DVD, although the Region 4 Madman Directors Suite release, with its comprehensive and informative audio commentary by Dr. Hartley is quite an excellent release onto DVD also.

Summary

    Her Mother's Profession (Uwasa no onna) does not show director Kenji Mizoguchi at his best in comparison to The Life of Oharu, Ugetsu or Sansho the Bailiff. Nevertheless, for fans of Mizoguchi's work or of Japanese Cinema in general, this release from Madman's Directors Suite label may serve of interest.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Monday, June 21, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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