My Love Has Been Burning

A very didactic feminist film from Mizoguchi – starting out with a statement from the filmmaker to the audience dedicating it to women seeking freedom around the world. In 1949 the sentiment may have been provocative, but today the lectures about human rights land like platitudes.

The film still has the power to shock, however. Mizoguchi doesn’t flinch from depicting the physical and sexual brutality inflicted on women who are basically sold into slavery or are imprisoned. That sequence, which comes midway through the film, has an almost mythic quality – where the radical leader and his followers wait in the woods like Robin Hood and his merry men while our heroine sneaks into the workhouse to witness its horrors.

That's a far more powerful moment than the subsequent domestic drama where we discover that the politician we thought was on the side of women's emancipation is a cad, and an elitist one at that. The film ends on an idea of solidarity between women of different classes, committed to educating each other and dreaming of a better world while male politicians advance their careers and leave them behind. It's a well crafted statement, but the characters remain little more than vehicles for ideas, and ultimately I don't find Mizoguchi’s firebrand activism as moving as Ozu's contemplative quietist studies of the burdens of familial obligation.

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