Kenji Mizoguchi

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ltfontaine
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#101 Post by ltfontaine » Mon Jun 25, 2007 1:58 pm

malcolm1980 wrote:I loved Ugetsu but I feel mixed about 47 Ronin. I find it extraordinary that a 4 hour movie about samurais managed to avoid virtually all scenes of action and violence. It's both interesting and, I must say, a bit maddening.
Kurosawa went so far as to write in his autobiography that Mizoguchi should have let him direct the "obligatory" climactic battle scene, omitted by Mizoguchi. I wonder, though, whether Mizoguchi's choice to withhold spectacular violence in this movie, created under pressure to produce wartime propaganda, may not have reflected some ambivalence on his part about the film's ostensible "message."

Here is a great essay about this film, by Fred Camper.

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#102 Post by Kenji » Mon Jun 25, 2007 2:15 pm

Good work with locating the article, which i'd read some years back and forgotten. Darrell Davis' book Picturing Japaneseness highlights 47 Ronin as a prime example of a monumental style that Davis sees as supportive of the political right and military establishment (he also, wrongly i think, picks out Story of the Late Chrysanthemums in reinforcing traditional family values). I'm happy to accept Mizo was not a paragon of virtue in resisting the WW2 rulers- his own status and career mattered too much to him- but i do think he certainly had other fish to fry in making the film, which wasn't what the authorities really had in mind, and may appear even more extraordinary to Westerners now, if intended as purely jingoistic propaganda. I'm convinced it's among the handful of Mizo's major works, and some of the camerawork is breath-taking.

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Michael Kerpan
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#103 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jun 25, 2007 2:31 pm

The cycle of ten plays by Seika Mayama called Genroku Chushingura is itself very "talky". The sevetnh play, which covers the attack, is called "Kira Yashiki Uramon" (The Back Gate of Kira's Mansion). I wonder if Mayama elided the attack itself?

Apparently this part of the cycle has only very rarely performed -- and is not even summarized (online at least):

http://www.kabuki21.com/gc.php

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#104 Post by Kenji » Fri Jun 29, 2007 5:06 am

Apparently- according to Le Fanu anyway!- Mayama did elide the attack, so criticisms of Mizo's perversity for his own omission are even less well founded. In any event, Jean Douchet says of Mizo generally, "he films the pure idea of action and contemplation, never the thing itself, always the idea of the thing".

It's such a shame Le Fanu doesn't go into more detail on Mizo's character- one section heading puts a question mark next to "martinet". Yoda's account, among others, reveals an extraordinary personality mix, which i would have thought would make for fascinating reading without undermining Mizo's work itself, driven demon though he was.

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#105 Post by david hare » Fri Jun 29, 2007 5:22 am

Michael - this is a last gasp moment (and completely frivolous given the deadlines) about Utamaro.

I would love you to describe, at least, what it is you do find so rewarding from it?

I have huge problems with it. And rewatched it last night (from an ancient TV print.) Minoosuke Bando is rigid to the point of non-performance, and at best declamatory. The women (for all their fabulousness) don't really make any meaningful interaction with him. In short I find the movie hugely disappointing. And I certainly agree - this SHOULD have been a most personal movie of Mizo. I will add I really dislike Women of the Night (admittedly only viewed from a shitty old SBS copy.)

I also HATE the visual design - flat lighting, over utilized framing for different perspectives, and a seemingly complete absence of mise en scene. Or at least one which has any dynamic. This is - no - should have been a major Mizo, but it just falls in a heap to me.

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#106 Post by Kenji » Fri Jun 29, 2007 5:49 am

Well, i watched (half of) it again last night too- on poor video- and found it so far less rewarding than first time round, even though interesting as an observation on Mizo's own character as a determined artist portraying women.

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#107 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jun 29, 2007 7:43 am

It's been a couple of years (at least) since I last watched Utamaro -- and I remember liking it quite a lot. But it is hard to summon up lots of detail at this point.

As to Bando, I thought his performance fit the character.

As to the fundamental non-interaction with the women -- I also think this was part of the point. In this film. Utamaro is, after all, a sort of aesthetic and emotional vampire.

It's been a couple of years (at least) since I last watched Utamaro -- and I remember liking it quite a lot. But it is hard to summon up lots of detail at this point.

As to Bando, I thought his performance fit the character.

As to the fundamental non-interaction with the women -- I also think this was part of the point. In this film. Utamaro is, after all, a sort of aesthetic and emotional vampire. ;~}

BTW --the copy of the old TV broadcast of Utamaro I have (is it from Australia? I can't recall) is better than the US video release.

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#108 Post by david hare » Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:08 am

Well, as you know the new Coffret Numero Trois includes it.
Like a sucker - as always for Mizo - I've just ordered it. Christ! If only this was a coffret of 30s Mizo!

To reply to kinji, I don't find anytihing much of Mizo in the character. And this is the real problem. There's a whole lot of statuesque (from the wasit) posing and relative strutting at the start of the movie but - comme on dit - plus de rien.

Chillingly banal, esp. for Mizo.

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#109 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:39 am

davidhare wrote:Well, as you know the new Coffret Numero Trois includes it.
Like a sucker - as always for Mizo - I've just ordered it. Christ! If only this was a coffret of 30s Mizo!
What I'd really like is a coffret of 20s Mizoguchi -- including "Paper Doll's Whisper of Spring" (which can never happen, of course). ;~{

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#110 Post by david hare » Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:47 am

I'd settle for a decent print of Zangiku Monogatari! I will never forget a season of 35mm Mizos in the early 70s (in generally gorgeous prints) which knocked my socks off! And were followed only a few years later by the 50s greats.

Clearly Japan would almost wipe the floor with 30s Hollywood via the big three. To think- Sternberg, Mizo/Ozu, Renoir, Grem et al... It's always been the decade I wish Id grown up in.

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ltfontaine
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#111 Post by ltfontaine » Fri Jun 29, 2007 12:20 pm

davidhare wrote:I have huge problems with it. And rewatched it last night (from an ancient TV print.) Minoosuke Bando is rigid
to the point of non-performance, and at best decmalatory. The women (for all their fabulousness) don't really make any meaningful interaction with him. In short I find the movie hugely disappointing. And I certainly agree - this SHOULD have been a most personal movie ofr Mizo.
Characteristically, Mizoguchi's focus is less on the titular male than on the attending women, in this case, “the five women around Utamaro.â€

Greathinker

#112 Post by Greathinker » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:01 pm

I couldn't find a thread on it, but is the Korean edition of The 47 Ronin watchable? I wonder about four hours of a blurry image.

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#113 Post by Tommaso » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:15 pm

It depends on your standards. The Image disc (of which the Korean apparently is a straight port, apart from yellow subs instead of white) does indeed not look good by any standards we're used to now, but it is not THAT bad as one might imagine. Far better than the awful renderings of Kurosawa's early films in that Bo-Ying edition which I had the displeasure to watch recently. In the case of "47 Ronin" I assume it's more a problem of the old print they use than a bad transfer, and I have doubts that we will get a much better version of it without anyone doing a full-scale restoration. I totally forgot about the image quality anyway after the film itself began to work its miracles on me. But be warned: it might be a very heavy-going experience at first, and it took me at least half of the film before I realised that it's not boring but actually totally captivating.

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#114 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:31 pm

The Korean version is certainly watchable. I've seen lots of worse DVDs (and videos) of Japanese films from that era.

Be forewarned -- not an action film at all (because the cycle of stage plays he adapted was itself philosophical -- and not action-oriented).

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#115 Post by Greathinker » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:37 pm

Thanks for the replies-- while I'm at it, can anyone comment on the korean release of The Life of Oharu?

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#116 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:48 pm

Greathinker wrote:Thanks for the replies-- while I'm at it, can anyone comment on the korean release of The Life of Oharu?
If it is a port of the UK DVD it won't look so hot. The French DVD looked better (but didn't have English subs).

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#117 Post by mattkc » Sat Sep 22, 2007 3:29 am

davidhare wrote:about Utamaro ...

I have huge problems with it. And rewatched it last night (from an ancient TV print.) Minoosuke Bando is rigid to the point of non-performance, and at best declamatory. The women (for all their fabulousness) don't really make any meaningful interaction with him. In short I find the movie hugely disappointing. And I certainly agree - this SHOULD have been a most personal movie of Mizo. I will add I really dislike Women of the Night (admittedly only viewed from a shitty old SBS copy.)

I also HATE the visual design - flat lighting, over utilized framing for different perspectives, and a seemingly complete absence of mise en scene. Or at least one which has any dynamic. This is - no - should have been a major Mizo, but it just falls in a heap to me.
This is a post from a while ago (and besides, no one asked me!), but I wanted to respond to it anyway as Utamaro is one of my favorite films, and a very major work by this filmmaker in my opinion. Like some others here though, I've seen it only once.

The flatness, which David pointed out, is part of what I find so amazing, and relates very directly to the subject of painting. From the opening shot (one of the most glorious tracking shots in cinema, no?) to the final one, I was completely taken away by the delicate rhythms, that seem to me quite unique in Mizoguchi, and the almost unbearable richness of the lighting and framing.

There's as much mise en scene in this film as in Ugetsu or Sansho. It's just more subtle.

I should say too that the final shot, the paintings, is probably my personal favorite "moment" in all of cinema. Finally, the work within Utamaro comes flowing out...

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#118 Post by david hare » Sat Sep 22, 2007 5:13 am

Matt genuine thanks for the prompting. I'll certainly go back to Utamaro, even though I always have a view of it perhaps colored by other Mizos which I find more germane, at least formally.

And of course everyone here I assume is aware of the MK2 box due in a week or so with a restored Ronin, plus Zangiku and Naniwa Onna. (My order's in place and I'll post caps when they arrive.)

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#119 Post by ptmd » Sat Sep 22, 2007 11:31 am

And of course everyone here I assume is aware of the MK2 box due in a week or so with a restored Ronin, plus Zangiku and Naniwa Onna. (My order's in place and I'll post caps when they arrive.)
I'm very interested in seeing what these look like, but I'll be shocked if the second two at least don't come out as part of an Eclipse box within the last year. Janus has said they're working on a Mizoguchi set and they just struck new prints of both of those films which they are currently sending around the country (which is almost invariably a sign that a DVD is forthcoming).

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#120 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Sep 22, 2007 4:19 pm

mattkc wrote:There's as much mise en scene in this film as in Ugetsu or Sansho. It's just more subtle.
I totally agree. ;~}

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ando
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#121 Post by ando » Sun Oct 07, 2007 2:44 pm

[quote]Utamaro also contains one of my favorite comic lines in all cinema. When it is reported that tattooed Takasoda has eloped with Shozaburo, and everyone else is scandalized by the lovers' rashness, Utamaro is outraged by Shozaburo's act of theft. “He ran off with that picture?â€

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#122 Post by Daze » Fri Nov 30, 2007 6:35 pm

Independent Film Channel is showing The 47 Ronin, part 1 on Saturday, 12/8, and part 2 on Saturday 12/15.

Anyone have info/speculation on print quality and whether this presages a DVD release?

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david hare
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#123 Post by david hare » Fri Nov 30, 2007 7:19 pm

I would suggest the print and telecine used by MK2 for the new French boxset is as definitive as this is ever going to get.

Remember you're dealing with Shochiku. There has been obvious restoration work carried out on the MK2 disc, and while a little more money and restoration might have assisted sharpness in a few scenes of deep conposition I venture to say it's the best pre 50s Mizo restoration I've seen. I take that back - the source for Osaka Elegy on the same box is impeccable and has a gorgeous pearly tonality, like the 30s American pictures it so clearly takes inspiration from. This movie however came out of the Daiichi Production house, pre-Shochiku.

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#124 Post by tryavna » Sun Dec 02, 2007 2:41 pm

Daze wrote:Independent Film Channel is showing The 47 Ronin, part 1 on Saturday, 12/8, and part 2 on Saturday 12/15.

Anyone have info/speculation on print quality and whether this presages a DVD release?
Unlikely in R1, I'm afraid. IFC have several samurai titles in their Saturday morning rotation that probably come from the old HVe videotapes. (The past Saturday's Gate of Hell is another example.)

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#125 Post by whaleallright » Mon Aug 04, 2008 7:02 am

With little fanfare, Tadao Sato's book on Mizoguchi is finally coming out in an English translation.

I don't know much about it, but it has to be better than Mark Le Fanu's BFI book from last year.

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