Ishun is a wealthy, but unsympathetic, master printer who has wrongly accused his wife and best employee of being lovers. To escape punishment, the accused run away together, but Ishun is certain to be ruined if word gets out.
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In 17th century Kyoto, Osan is married to Ishun, a wealthy miserly scroll-maker. When Osan is falsely accused of having an affair with the best worker, Mohei, the pair flee the city and declare their love for each other. Ishun orders his men to find them, and separate them to avoid public humiliation. Written by
"Chikamatsu Monogatari" , (aka "The Crucified Lovers"), is one Mizoguchi's lesser known works and yet it is no less extraordinary for all that. It is, of course, typical of its director; another tragic tale of corrupted innocence and the terrible hand fate plays in people's lives, in this case a wrongful accusation of adultery over a very simple misunderstanding. Shakespeare could have written this.
It's set in the 17th century and it paints as relentless a picture of cruelty and hypocrisy as Mizoguchi has given us and he shoots it almost in semi-darkness, (even the exteriors take place at night or are shrouded in mist or in shadow), so there is no escape for its protagonists nor for us; the inevitability of the lovers' fate is clearly signposted from the beginning.
As the couple forced to acknowledge their love for each other by unfolding events Kazuo Hasegawa and Kyoko Kagawa are superb, particularly Kagawa whose performance as the wronged wife is a masterclass in subtlety and tenderness. This is surely one of the key films in all of Japanese cinema.
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