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Countercurrents: The Films of Yasuzo Masumura

Saturday, October 11, 1997
Lullaby of the Earth
Yasuzo Masumura Japan, 1976

(Daichi no komoriuta). A true discovery in our series, one of only four independent films Masumura directed, Lullaby of the Earth is a tour de force for the teenage actress Mieko Harada as the brave and brash heroine, and for the director whose alter ego she clearly is. The setting is a mountain village in Shikoku in the early 1930s. Orin is a feral orphan raised by a grandma whose dying words, "Be a good girl, just be yourself," usher her alone into a frightening world. Lured to a house of prostitution in a far-off fishing village, Orin retains her pure animal self amid the perverse "family" of prostitutes, bosses, and johns. Masumura captures the claustrophobic, colorful, emotionally corrupt world of the whorehouse by filming with intimate intensity, never abandoning his terrorized/terrorist heroine for a minute. The title is only slightly ironic, for this abused youth who never heard a lullaby was enfolded by the earth from birth, and in the end returns to the fold a pilgrim, still alone, but transcendent.

• Written by Yoshio Shirasaka based on the novel by Kukiko Moto. Photographed by Yoshihisa Nakagawa. With Mieko Harada, Yusuke Sato, Natsuko Kahara, Kinuyo Tanaka (cameo). (111 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Kimura Productions)