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In eighth century China, the Emperor is grieving over the death of his wife. The Yang family wants to provide the Emperor with a consort so that they may consolidate their influence over the court. General An Lushan finds a distant relative working in their kitchen whom they groom to present to the Emperor. The Emperor falls in love with her and she becomes the Princess Yang Kwei-fei. The Yangs are then appointed important ministers, though An Lushan is not given the court position he covets. The ministers misuse their power so much that there is a popular revolt against all the Yangs, fueled by An Lushan. Written by
I remember seeing this film more than two years ago, and while the entire story is not very memorable (I could probably not tell everything that happens in it now, which is perhaps more my fault than the filmmaker), I have a fond memory of seeing it in visual beauty. Kenji Mizogichi, a filmmaker I admire from Ugetsu, has here a very lushly made film, with perfectly constructed sets that spark a tinge of both fable and centuries-gone reality, and costumes that compliment the color photography. And that part, of capturing the images, is maybe the best thing that can be recommendable about the film. For a film about a Princess who was once lower on the ranks in the Emperor's home and becomes the Emperor's love interest, it provides such opportunities for a real vision to set in to guide it all.
Mizoguchi provides it with his cinematographer Kôhei Sugiyama in order sometimes for the film to be told almost all on visual terms (the filmmaker was most prolific in the silent-film era). So in the end, even as the story becomes a little cluttered with some scenes, it's never too complex due to the basics that the filmmaker is going for- and probably why it was picked up by Buena Vista distribution in the 1950s- a beautiful scope of Japan's regal side mixed with some of the lower classes. It's like a Shakespearean tale if it was superimposed into Japan and given a touch of that lost-era of color photography that was only matched by Powell/Pressburger's films.
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