Yume No Onna (1993)

Run Time - 98 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |  
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Famed onnagata (a man who plays women's parts in Kabuki) Tamasaburo Bando follows up on the success of his directorial debut, Gekashitsu, with this soft-focused romance about love and obligation, based on a novel by Kafu Nagai. Set during the Meiji period (1868-1912), Kaede (Sayuri Yoshinaga) is the former mistress of a wealthy merchant. When he dies, she is forced out on the street and forced to give up her young daughter to the merchant's family. The film opens with her working in a high-class brothel abutting Tokyo Bay. Though she has passionate affection for a drug wholesaler, whom she loves as well, Kaede is swamped with not only debts to the bordello and family obligations -- she is expected to support her parents and her sister -- but also guilt over losing her child. This pain is only increased when Kaede learns that her daughter is being abused. She does the only thing she can: She buys back her child by signing on at the brothel for a longer stint. Meanwhile, her lover tries to buy her out of prostitution, but she refuses in order to pay for her child's freedom. As a result, her lover hangs himself, heaping further sorrow on the downtrodden but elegant heroine.