In the late 1950’s prostitution was banned in Japan and if a woman was found exercising this profession they were sent to a reformatory. This is a story of one of these brave women Kuniko who is released from the reformatory and tries to build a new life.
Michael Smith wrote:
Girls of Dark was released five years after the criminalization of prostitution and focuses on the rehabilitation of former prostitutes in their struggle to assimilate into legitimate society. The lead character of the film, Kuniko, is another Tanaka protagonist who is shown to be entirely unambiguous in the use of her sexuality but, in her case, it is only through the elimination of her brazen eroticism, which is shown to be as much a part of her personal character as it was to her former professional one, that she is able to approach successful rehabilitation.
Even after finding contentment in country life, Kuniko is ultimately unable to escape her past and it is her inability to survive in mainstream Japan through which Girls of Dark offers a cynical outlook on the futures of the thousands of Japanese women trying to find a new life in a Japan which, for the first time in its history, was proactively intolerant of the sex trade.
Girls of Dark has a particularly unpleasant scene in which Kuniko is jumped by a gang of inmates at the rehabilitation centre, who force her to the floor, brace her legs apart and burn her genitalia with candle wax. Such explicit imagery was rare in mainstream Japanese cinema of the time and is demonstrative of the seriousness with which Tanaka approached the issues of her own gender, which she clearly saw as amounting to more than merely a discussion of modernity and familial roles.
Both the breadth of women’s issues considered in her films and the serious, sometimes confrontational levity with which she approached these issues mean that Tanaka Kinuyo’s films can be considered as not only contributions to the canon of female-centred postwar Japanese cinema, but contributions from a woman personally invested in the position of her gender.
1.16GB | 1h 32m | 666×283 | mkv