Utamaro, a great artist, lives to create portraits of beautiful women, and the brothels of Tokyo provide his models. A world of passion swirls around him, as the women in his life vie for ... See full summary »
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.
In the post-war, the sixteen year-old teenager Eiko seeks out the geisha Miyoharu in the district of Gion, in Kyoto asking her to be a "maiko" (apprentice of geisha). Eiko explains that her... See full summary »
In Tokyo in 1888, Kikunosuke Onoue, the adoptive son of an important actor, discovers that he is praised for his acting only because he is his father's heir, and that the troupe complains how bad he is behind his back. The only person to talk to him honestly about his acting is Otoku, the wet-nurse of his adoptive father's child. She is fired by the family, and Kikunosuke is forbidden to see her, because of the gossip a relationship with a servant would cause. Kikunosuke falls in love with Otoku, and leaves home to try to make a living on his own merits outside Tokyo. He is eventually joined by Otoku, who encourages him to become a famous actor to regain the recognition of his family.Written by
powerful in how it takes its time and builds to dramatic crescendos
Mizoguchi's 1939 masterwork is one that sneaks up on you to where its ending is so devastating because of how Mizoguchi never gives you that tight two shot or intense close ups. You have to WATCH this film but it can bring you in unexpectedly; shots at first may appear to be languid, veering maybe towards an early Bela Tarr film. But not too soon after it begins Mizoguchi's feminist (scatch that, simply a deeply felt humanist) view of the world, that oppression from familial obligations and guilt creates the tragedy of it all.
The Kabuki and theatrical performances were the only parts I felt things lag a bit for me; I readily admit not being from Japan or understanding this anachronistic style (ironically but correctly Mizoguchi ups his pace for cutting in these scenes, there are more cuts and more reactions from the audience). I nevertheless think this is so powerful because of the purity of its story, that it is challenging the hierarchical structure of the period while coming to a conclusion in its final section where artistic triumph and tragic fate collide.
Some may actually read into Osuka that she is a "doormat", like how can she look past anything she wants all for a man who, for much of the story - a man cant live up to his own standards as an actor, or to his families demands for him to be the next BIG actor in line, so he leaves home to cut his own path, with this woman who was once his little brothers wet nurse as his lover but more importantly his booster - lacks confidence. But I found myself rooting for him and finding that he was not unsympathetic; when he does get angry and pissy at one point the feeling is not hate but one of "come on you can put it together! Do it for her if nothing else!"
There is suffering, quite so much so. But is showing the status quo, how men use women, being a critique here or simply showing it as it was/is in 1939 and before? So much of Last Chrysanthemum is painful to watch, yet in a way that I can never pull away from. A lot of it comes back to how he uses the camera and editing - take a key moment between these two people near the end and he never goes for the easy close up or two shot, we have to see this from one end of the room, but the emotion is laid bare - and that everyone in the cast knows how to play for it being about the firmness, even sanctuary nature, of the status quo.
At times melodramatic as any soap but directed with the fluidity and timing of a confident old master (Mizoguchi was 40 when he made this, and really John Ford and his long, absorbing masters and mediums are a better comparison than Tarr), this was an experience that brought me in gradually from one melancholic but realistically drawn scene after another. Certainly not something to watch to get in a "happy" mood, but then when is with this filmmaker? (still not quite so soul crushing as Sansho the Bailiff, but close).
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