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Archive for March 23rd, 2009

 oc2020sansho20pdvd_006

by Sam Juliano

By any standard of measurement Kenji Mizoguchi must surely be considered among the masters of cinema.  He’s one of four Japanese directors to be so regarded, along with Yashujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa and Mikio Naruse.  He was amazingly prolific, considering he lived to be only 58, dying in 1956 of a rare form of leukemia.  He made 85 films, most of these between 1922 and 1935, (all but six of these are lost) but is known in the west for about a half-dozen films coming late in his career that are considered masterpieces by film scholars, critics and audiences.  Like John Ford, Mizoguchi once headed the vast union governing all production personnel in Japan, and he liked to consider himself as popular as much as a serious artist, but during his storied career is was unrelentingly meticulous and a ceaseless researcher.  He is said to have been tyrannical over his actors, as he sought perfection demanded by few other artists including Dreyer, Bresson and Hitchcock.  He saw his later films as the culmination of many years’ work, his style evolving from one in which a set of tableaux were photographed from an imperial distance and then cut together to one in which the camera moves between two moments of balance, beginning with the movements of a character, then coming to rest at its own proper point.      (more…)

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 sansho-1

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1954 125m) DVD1/2

Aka. Sansho the Bailiff

When will your children be home?

p  Masaichi Nagata  d  Kenji Mizoguchi  w  Fuji Yahiro, Yoshikata Yoda  novel  Ogai Mori  ph  Kazuo Miyagawa  ed  Mitsuji Miyata  m  Fumio Hayasaka  art  Kasaku Ito

Yoshiaki Hanayagi (Zushio), Kyoko Kagawa (Anju), Kinuyo Tanaka (Tamaki), Eitaro Shindo (Sansho), Akitaka Kono (Taro), Masao Shimizu (Masauji Taira), Ken Mitsuda (P.M.Morozane Fujiwara), Chieko Naniwa (Ubatake), Kikue Mori (Priestess), Kazukimi Okuni (Norimura), Masahiko Kato, Keiko Enami,

Akira Kurosawa always referred to Mizoguchi as the greatest Japanese director.  Many critics have agreed with him over the years and, though the great man directed numerous great films before his untimely death in 1956, this final masterpiece is arguably his finest achievement, long overshadowed by Ugetsu Monogatari released the previous year, but at the very least its equal.  In the same year Kurosawa released The Seven Samurai, Mizoguchi was making a radically different analysis of the lot of the peasant in feudal Japan. 

            In the Japan of the 11th century, when “the majority of the people were considered less than human“, an official is exiled after he incurs the wrath of ministers for his trying to stop the exploitation of the peasant class.  Seven years later, his wife and children set out to follow him, but they are attacked by bandits and, as the mother is taken away to begin life as a prostitute on Sado Island, the children are sold off into slavery at the hands of the merciless bailiff, Sansho.  Years later, the children – still in slavery – are now 23 and 18 respectively and the young girl persuades her elder brother to make a run for it without her.  Though he vows to come back for her, she realises her situation is hopeless and commits suicide.  Meanwhile, their mother anxiously awaits them daily, now crippled after an escape attempt of her own. (more…)

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