Plot: What’s it about?
After a violent encounter with one her clients, a prostitute named Harumi (Yumiko Nogawa) is sent out to the front lines of battle. As she is a woman, she will not be asked to brandish a weapon and do battle, instead she will help keep morale high and serve the needs of the soldiers. In other words, she is to sexually service hundreds of soldiers in her area, whenever they please. This position comes with no reward, but she must do the service or face an even worse fate. If she steps out of line, the brutal Lieutenant Narita (Isao Tamagawa) is there to punish her, in not so kind fashion. The prospect of meeting someone she would like seemed slim, but she soon develops a bond with Private Mikami (Tamio Kawachi). At first, she seduces Mikami only because he is so close to Narita, but that soon evolves into a genuine bond. But in such emotional chaos, in the middle of wartime no less, can she begin a new life?
As a fan of Asian cinema, I have been thrilled with Criterion’s decision to release several films by Seijun Suzuki. I think most film buffs were introduced to Suzuki by his film Branded to Kill, a delirious movie that ended up getting him fired from his regular studio. Story of a Prostitute isn’t in the same vein as that film, but Suzuki still brandishes the same sense of desperation here. This is a darker, more emotional excursion, one that also better adheres to a traditional narrative. Yet within that, Suzuki makes some bold transitions and explores some harsh topics, so don’t think his style is toned down. He cuts deep into the issues of social order, politics, love, sex, and yes, even the spiritual plane. I found Story of a Prostitute to be a well crafted, though not always smooth picture that is highly effective on most levels. As always, Criterion drums up a wonderful treatment, so for fans of Asian cinema, Story of a Prostitute is highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Story of a Prostitute is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. As with Criterion’s other Seijun Suzuki releases, this one looks good and ensures that Suzuki’s great visual sense comes through well. The print is in good condition, with no serious marks or debris, though a little grain can be seen in some sequences. I noticed a level of softness throughout, but this never proves to be a real issue, though it is evident. The black & white visuals look good outside of the softness, thanks to well balanced black levels. So the image here has some flaws, but given the material’s age, I think we can overlook the mild softness.
Audio: How does it sound?
The film’s original Japanese language is used and since this is a dialogue reliant picture, the included mono track is more than adequate. I simply love this movie’s musical score, which really meshes with the material and in this mix, it sounds as rich and full as mono allows. Not much to talk about in terms of sound effects, but the ones present here sound good, which is all you can ask of a simple mix like this. The dialogue is the main focus here and thanks to this mix, it comes off in fine form, no complaints in the least. This disc also includes English subtitles, in case you’ll need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes new interviews with several crew members, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.