2008 Sundance Film Festival
Japan Duration: 8:00
Director: Ryousuke Ogawa
In the 28th year of the Meiji period (1895), at a Susukino brothel, there was a beautiful Oiran named Kiyomi. Oiran Lyrics is a historic musical about Kiyomi's glamorous, but plaintive life.
That's the synopsis I found online of this magical, whimsical and tragic short film that featured in the sundance film festival this past year.
It begins with musicians wearing bunny masks in a field lit at night by a full moon and what appears to be pollen rising from the grass towards the sky. Suddenly the camera pans over to a woman under a tree, the oiran, who lays seemingly dead and bloody. It is at this point that the music begins and the audience becomes aware that the story begins at the end and the dead Kiyomi comes back to life to tell her sad tale and the musical session officially begins.
What I found the most interesting about this short was the fact that it is a musical about prostitution. This young woman's horrifying tale begins with the death of her father, leading to her mother selling her to a brothel for money. After a few years, Kiyomi falls in love with a man, gets pregnant and her pimp gets furious when he finds out. Kiyomi is poisoned to kill her baby and then is sold to another brothel, never to see her love again. She convinces herself that tears have no value and love is just a job. She suddenly tries to escape from the brothel and runs into the field from the beginning of the film. She sings into the microphone, "Love is, after all, what I earn, money" and then falls to her death.
Although this a truly unfortunate story about the common practice of prostitution in Japan and mistreatment of women, the story is told along with very upbeat and even happy music. The visual effects are also quite pleasant with bright, colorful flowers in almost every scene. The singing is suprisingly impressive. It may be absurd to associate happiness with such an awful truth, but that's what makes this short film so interesting and amusing.
** Purchased video on Itunes. Check it out!