Women of the Night ★★½

Mizoguchi's explicitly neo-realist film, shot mostly on location and filled with background players who create an authentic atmosphere with their sort of callous movements and remarks. This give his trademark long-take compositions more necessity than usual, acting more like a documentary camera than poetic gesture. But the main narrative is a lot of deck-stacking against these women - in the first scene, the protagonist has got a missing husband, no money, and a kid with TB, and then shamed by being offered a prostitution job. Jeez. Their plights are aptly captured, though without any sense of the freedom that his period pieces allow. All by design of course, but there's a tension through some of the relationship material and the more neo-realist tendencies; not that Italian neo-relaism doesn't have its strains of melodrama as well, but the motivations here seem directly antithetical at times. The youngest sister appears out of nowhere with convictions that her family life is terrible, only to throw herself into a worse situation. Mizoguchi's shots are more economical than usual, save for the final scene. As the girls are ravish each other in a burnt out church, the camera slowly glides onto a stained glass window of the Virgin Mary, as the two sisters abandon this torn community, their shadows passing behind. I'm not sure if Mizoguchi embraced Christianity otherwise (or perhaps even meant it as a commentary on the US Occupation), but it's a curious moment in a film that could have used a few more oddities.

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