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Chikamatsu monogatari (1954)

 -  Drama | Romance  -  November 1970 (USA)
8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 1,633 users  
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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 ... See full summary »

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Title: Chikamatsu monogatari (1954)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kazuo Hasegawa ...
Mohei
Kyôko Kagawa ...
Osan
Eitarô Shindô ...
Ishun
Eitarô Ozawa ...
Sukeemon (as Saka Ozawa)
Yôko Minamida ...
Otama
Haruo Tanaka ...
Gifuya Dôki
Chieko Naniwa ...
Okô
Ichirô Sugai ...
Gembei
Tatsuya Ishiguro ...
Isan
Hiroshi Mizuno ...
Kuroki
Hisao Toake ...
Morinokoji
Kazue Tamaki ...
Jushiro Umegaki
Kimiko Tachibana ...
Umetatsu Akamatsu
Keiko Koyanagi ...
Okaya
Sayako Nakagami ...
Osono
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Storyline

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 Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

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Release Date:

November 1970 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Story from Chikamatsu  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Edited into Origins of the 21st Century (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The tortured heart behind the cultivated image
13 November 2011 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

This is adapted from a work by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, one of the defining writers from the early Tokugawa era. His name often reaches us in the contours of a Japanese Shakespeare and as usually with these Western imports to explain Eastern art, it is mostly a lazy comparison. Unlike Shakespeare who continues to inspire a steady flow of film, Chikamatsu's name has been largely neglected however; there is this, and films by Uchida, Shinoda, and Yasuzo Masumura, 'shunji'/double-suicide stories that were Chikamatsu's forte, each enlivened in its own way by the intensity of vibrant artifice and a story of forbidden passions cleansed by death.

So film-wise, the heart of these things has been extrapolated from where centuries of concentrated practice refined them, in the stages of kabuki or bunraku, both of which featured elaborate contraptions for generating illusions. The stage having been set, it was all a matter of achieving a cinematic mobility around it. Shinoda made the most clever simple use of that stage in Double Suicide; he was essentially filming what domestic audiences had enjoyed for centuries on the stage of bunraku as part of unbroken tradition, but trusting our eye to be naturally dislocated the right distance to absorb this as a puzzling modernity.

It is not unlike what has happened with Mizoguchi; a visual purity from tradition dislocated, thus obscured, through Western interpretations.

But let's backtrack a little. We know that Chikamatsu abandoned kabuki for the puppet theater of bunraku, an author's theater, with pliable actors held on strings and the gods that move the world made visible. There he worked in favour of better integrated audience manipulation, in favour of an idealized realism sprung from the author's mind.

So here we have a film about a scroll-maker, himself an artist charged with cultivating idealized images, fighting against the idealized reality he has helped cultivate in a quest for the true love he had all his life sublimated into perfect service.

It is very similar to Oharu in this way; the film structured around the tension that rises from characters performing idealized roles and the tortured heart that gives rise to them. There is a master printer who cultivates the image of the noble benefactor but who is a cruel deceiving scumbag. Nobles who act magnanimous in the open but then use their position to barter for money. The rival printer who feigns congratulations or compassion but who is secretly plotting for the imperial position.

So this idealized world that Chikamatsu advocated and in a small part helped cultivate, Mizoguchi posits to be a system of organized oppression with victims its own characters.

But it is in thrusting through this world of idealized, thus largely fictional appearances, that the two lovers can finally realize feelings that were socially prohibited. In this fictional world true beauty, a love fou, is realized by shedding the artificial. As it turns out, the two of them become the couple they were groomed to be.

As usual with Mizoguchi, the narrative on the surface level is never less than obvious. It is clean, disarmingly earnest. It seems like the film does not demand anything of us. But beneath the controlled histrionics, there is a heart of images that beats with abstract beauty.

The final image is of the two lovers publicly declaring love by simply standing together. It is again clean but resonates outsid the narrative. Their fate is sealed, but the image no longer cultivated but naturally arisen now has the chance to blossom across the audience of curious onlookers. It is an image with the power to inspire change.

Mizoguchi is not a filmmaker I can deem personal. But he's a remarkable study just the same.


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