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Archive for the ‘DIRECTED BY: Kenji Mizoguchi’ Category

The Story Of The Last Chrysanthemum

27 Apr

The Story Of The Last Chrysanthemum – directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Backstage Drama. 142 minutes 1939.

★★★★★

The Story: A young serving woman finds her life’s work in supporting a spoiled young man to become a great Kabuki actor.

~

It is one of the great films of the world.

And lest that put you off, let me remark that the self-sacrifice one finds prevalent in certain female characters in American movies of this time (Stella Dallas, for example) collapses under the nobility of the burden of an emotion of which one tires because it was phony, because it was the goodie-goodie dole parceled out to audiences by the doers of The Depression as payoff for the chisel. We Cheated You But At Least You Met Deprivation Nobly was the American lie. This is not that.

No women’s-libber dare speak against this woman’s calling. Oh, yes, she is taken advantage of by some males about her, as well as by some females. This is not that, either.

And those who may decry her as a codependent doormat have no place at this table.

For who can convince the uniformed in human emotion? The vulgarity of social values is what is unintentionally triumphed over by her, including all those above named.

For she devotes herself to the truth of a great artist from the moment he is laughed off the stage as a lousy actor – which he is. How come he doesn’t know he’s lousy? Because he’s the son of the superstar, and everyone in the company toadies up to him with unearned praise. To see the truth within him is her God-given gift. This is what she gives herself to, as some give themselves to service or to art or to a faith.

That’s how it starts. How it continues involves a great story-telling technique, of fascinating our attention to the narration through the point of view of enormously long takes – one of them 6 minutes – a device Hitchcock failed at twice – but which encompasses a visual setting of such relentless loveliness the calmness of them is as irresistible as a volcano.

You may weep. You may not. You may want to own it in order to make a life study of it. I simply counsel you to subject yourself to it. Michelangelo’s Pieta traveled around America, and when it did we all came to see it: a teenage girl holding the body of her 33 year-old dead son. See this for the same reason. Exercise your cultural curiosity by crossing the street to where it is.

And thank me one day that I whispered these things to you.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: JAPANESE MOVIE-NOH, DIRECTED BY: Kenji Mizoguchi, MUST SEE

 

Osaka Elegy

06 Oct

Osaka Elegy – directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Drama. 71 minutes Black And White 1936.

The Story: A young working woman tries to raise money to pay off her father’s debt and becomes the object of abuse and scorn.

~

Two things.

Mizoguchi demonstrates:

First: women exist in a culture which abuses them. No further point need be made about it by Mizoguchi, since what he shows makes it self-evident. It isn’t that his leading actress is particularly sympathetic as a performer that makes this telling. It is rather that she is a bit silly, a bit foolish, a bit selfish, a bit vain. But she is a human being, and she does not deserve to be treated like something else.

It is also true that the female is also capable of delivering abuse, even our heroine, and surely the battleax wife of her boss. Gender is not the weapon. Money is.

Second: This complicated story is delivered to us in style so revolutionary it is difficult to imagine that it was filmed in 1936. It is a style which seizes one narratively in long continuous shots, and set-ups which rivet and enliven the drama and the characters. The placement of figures in a scene, one near with his back to one, another in a distant room.  One muttering about morality, while stealing money from his children, and over there, the prig of a son he’s stealing from, devouring his greedy dinner.

Mizoguchi serves his actors well. And they are wonderful. But the remarkable force of Mizoguchi’s story-telling camera is the real source of revelation. We do not have master shots, followed by two-shots, followed by closeups, in the prescribed Hollywood style. But something different and distinct. It does not call attention to itself, because the truth it reveals is greater than its technique in doing so.

Here’s a master new to me. I wish I were able to speak less clumsily of him. But here’s a director I intend to study, enjoy, immerse myself in, and learn all I can from.

Although he had made many others before this, this is said, by him, to be his first accomplished film.

 

 

 

Street Of Shame

23 Apr

Street Of Shame – Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Tragic Satire. The women of a bordello meet their fates and fortunes, one by one. 85 minutes Black and White 1956

* * * * *

Machiko Kyo, star of Teahouse Of The August Moon, Ugetsu, Roshamon, brings her young sensual power to the part of the volatile tart who enters the Tokyo bordello where this multi-character tale takes place. She is not alone in the attention she receives from the director. Each strand of each story weaves through the next, and Kenji Mizoguchi, whose last film this is, spares his camera now for this one now for the next, but always in community with all the other characters around, all women. The effect is Tolstoian, and has the power of Tolstoi — on two grounds — Mizoguchi’s sensibility in defining characters is ruthlessly economic and his sense of inherent, not imposed, moral inevitability is paramount. These characters are so unconscious they are funny, which is also Tolstoian, and, in their folly lovable, Tolstoian again. So the halo and aura of the picture exists as a greatness, brought on by the director’s handling of the individuals in collective scenes. Martin Scorsese must have studied this director for his strength in the handling of groups before a camera, and for free movement in cramped spaces. As in Tolstoi, in his The Forged Coupon, say, what is born is that rarest of forms, Tragic Satire. Does what I say make this film sound too serious to see? Not so. You may shake your head at what you behold here, but that is because it is so real that it is funny. Treat yourself. Watch it.

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