Mizoguchi y los Ultimos Dias del Barrio Rojo = [Mizoguchi and the last days of the red-light district]

Gonzalez-Lopez, Irene (2016) Mizoguchi y los Ultimos Dias del Barrio Rojo = [Mizoguchi and the last days of the red-light district]. In: Lozano Mendez, Artur, (ed.) El Japon contemporaneo : una aproximacion desde los Estudios Culturales. Barcelona, Spain : Bellaterra. pp. 105-126. (Biblioteca de Japon, (4)) ISBN 9788472907577


The chapter focuses on the analysis of Street of Shame (Akasen chitai, Mizoguchi Kenji, 1956). This all-star production depicting life in a brothel as the ban on prostitution is being debated in the Diet became a great box-office success, and one of Mizoguchi’s most acclaimed works in Japan and elsewhere. As the sex industry was being incessantly discussed in Japanese media in relation to law, medicine, human rights and morality, the film brought the heated debate to the big screen; and some critics even argue that it was instrumental in pushing the ban through the Diet. Its popularity and timely release make Street of Shame an extremely significant text to explore how prostitution was perceived amidst the frenetic social change and economic growth; as well as to enquire the political significance of the ban on prostitution at a time during which Japan attempted to redefine its national identity according to international standards of modernity. The aim of the chapter is two-fold: to analyse the cinematic representation of the prostitute, in which themes of gender, class, ethnicity and the social construction of public space conspicuously converge; and to elucidate the position of Street of Shame in the map of agents ‘defining’ prostitution through a comparative analysis of an array of contemporaneous Japanese media texts. It argues that the prostitute figure was imagined as an allegory of the nation and its quest for modernisation. Finally, this chapter traces the impact of Street of Shame in the popular imaginary through the examination of subsequent Japanese films and international film criticism to demonstrate its relevance in shaping the perception of prostitution among Japanese and foreign audiences. The results of this research open new perspectives to further understand the contemporary sex industry in Japan and the way it is perceived in society.

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