Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Kenji Mizoguchi's "Gion bayashi" (1953)

English titles: A Geisha, Gion Festival Music

Tag Gallagher on Kenji Mizoguchi's use of space:
"Virtually every relationship in Mizoguchi is humiliating, hierarchal, enslaving, with space expressing the power of one person, the nullity of another: endless bowing and kowtowing and scraping across floors in self-abasement. And despite all these shots of people walking in rooms and passageways, we get no sense from Mizoguchi of what it is like to be in these houses, because these are sets, designs, formed of rectangles, cubes, lines and blocks, and their space is fictive, part of the nightmare of power. The grace of the architecture, the clear lines of buildings, the comforting sensation of a storybook Zen order radiated by structures, all are geometric forces of imprisonment and oppression, (...)"

You can read the full article, called Mizoguchi and freedom, here.

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Kenji Mizoguchi's "Ugetsu Monogatari" (1953)

English titles: Tales of Ugetsu, Tales of a Pale and Mysterious Moon After the Rain, Tales of Moonlight and Rain

An ode to everything about Nature and Light. Here's a song from Ugetsu:

This world is a temporary abode,
Where we weep until the dawn comes,
Pitched by the waves...

Incredible pain described, shown. At the very limits. But also incredibly dark humour: A husband, trying to be a samurai, forgets to protect his wife who gets raped.

Ugetsu is romantic to the core and attached to the emotions felt, but also distant and wise.

Another song from Ugetsu:
The finest silk,
Of choicest hue,
May change and fade away,
As would my life,
Beloved one...

"Such is the way of the world", someone says. How is it exactly? is the question Mizoguchi's films are asking. But "the fog is thick", you have to "be careful", because the unknown surrounds you.

Near the very end: "Fruit of experience is beauty, but only a master craftsman can create such beauty." Art is a dance to call the immaterial spirits...

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kenji Mizoguchi's "Oyu-sama" (1951)

English titles: Lady Oyu, Miss Oyu

Three-dimensional spaces confine people, define people. Architectures we live in change the way we see things, concepts, relationships. The perception of space is one with the perception of the world. Abstract form can touch all human emotions, thoughts...

Mizoguchi is a master of form and light. As in the case of Miss Oyu, his lighting can be very precise, with high contrast. This is one of my very favorite Mizoguchi films.

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Kenji Mizoguchi's "Sansho dayu" (1954)

English titles: Legend of Bailiff Sansho, Sansho the Bailiff, The Bailiff

Nature, diagonals, water... Everything is expressive. One of the most beautiful dialogues in all cinema:
– It's my mother's voice.
– No, it's the sound of the waves.

Symmetries constantly broken, there is almost always an angle to the shots, it's very rarely head-on. There's perspective. There's distance. "It's a cold world indeed" says someone in Sancho Dayu, "Isn't life torture?" sings another, "A man is not a human being without mercy. Even if you're hard on yourself, be merciful to others." teaches someone.

Through Mizoguchi, we learn to seek something extraordinary...

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kenji Mizoguchi's "Gubijinso" (1935)

English titles: Poppies, Poppy, The Field Poppy

It's senseless. "I should have changed. But it's not my fault" says one of the characters. In the great tradition of storytelling, Mizoguchi creates remarkable characters, gets involved in their drama, but also keeps distance. He skips between concepts, ideas, emotions poetically. In his films, people laugh and people cry...

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kenji Mizoguchi's "Shin heike monogatari" (1955)

English titles: Legend of the Taira Clan, New Tales of the Taira Clan, Taira Clan Saga, Tales of the Taira Clan, The Sacrilegious Hero, The Taira Clan

Life is a dew
Fragile and quickly scattered...

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