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.
To save her brother and the ancestral house from the heavy burden of an unfulfilled debt, Osan--the noble wife of the parsimonious but reputable scroll-maker, Ishun--turns to her husband's kind-hearted employee, Mohei. However, a transparent forgery paired with a preposterous accusation will force the pair to escape from the printer's unwelcome Kyoto household, seeking refuge in 17th-century Osaka's inhospitable streets. Now, amid scandalous and disquieting rumours--and constantly under threat--Mohei and Osan seem to fight a lost battle. What fate awaits the fugitives from Chikamatsu?Written by
I think this makes it official: no major filmmaker ever utilized lakes as well as did Kenji Mizoguchi. Between the canoe chase in Sansho the Bailiff and the suicide attempt seen in this film, it can safely be said that the Japanese director was the cinematic master of lake imagery.
The images here, by Mizoguchi and DP Kazuo Miyagawa, who also lensed many of Kurosawa's most iconic films, are consistently gorgeous. More than that, though, Chikamatsu is, I think, the most perfect encapsulation of Mizoguchi's central theme: the self-annihilating ecstasy that comes with turning one's back on an unjust social order.
Perhaps "encapsulate" is a particularly good word to use because one of the reasons the themes are so brazen is that Mizoguchi is here working on a far smaller canvas than he usually allows himself. This film is quite short by the director's standards, and deals with a smaller number of characters. Perhaps because of its less epic scope I would rank it just below the previously mentioned Sansho the Bailiff as my favorite film by this great director.
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