Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

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Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby wpqx » Wed Jun 20, 2007 2:35 pm

Yes but being moderators, we can always alter the title to accommodate Naruse. I have also rented An Autumn Afternoon, and based on the glorious transfer of the Eclipse DVD's, I'll probably rent the remainder of that set, and hopefully be able to get something here. I've pretty much exhausted all of Mizoguchi's available films at Facets, so don't expect many comments on him from me.
wpqx
 


Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby wpqx » Thu Jun 21, 2007 11:10 pm

An Autumn Afternoon (1962) - Yasujiro Ozu

There comes a time when watching Ozu films were you realize the man pretty much made one film over his entire career. For some An Autumn Afternoon might seem the culmination of a brilliant career. The final chapter in his epic drama on the middle class Japanese family. However it leaves feeling almost incomplete. A sentence without punctuation. The story has been told by Ozu numerous times, and almost to redunancy. Rather than adding a new dimension or a different shade, the film instead feels like it is repeating itself. The prhase "seen one, seen 'em all" seems appropriate here.
wpqx
 

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby wpqx » Fri Jun 22, 2007 5:44 pm

Late Autumn (1960) - Yasujiro Ozu

After years of being out of print, Ozu's Late Autumn finally gets a DVD release courtesy of Eclipse. The film takes a familiar structure of a young daughter's marriage being delayed by loyalty to her widowed parent. In this case the widowed parent happens to be the mother, and that mother is played by Setsuko Hara, who once inhabited the daughter role in a nearly identical film a decade earlier. Somewhat somber, but still enfused with a light Ozu touch, the film is as familiar as watching family videos. The formula doesn't get much reworking here, but still an enjoyable picture, that makes more than a few comparisons to the old and young generation. For once Ozu is starting to call out that maybe today's kids aren't that different from their parents generation, they just think they are.
wpqx
 

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby wpqx » Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:46 pm

The Idiot (1951) - Akira Kurosawa

Well just as I had a brief run of Ozu (a run that's not over btw), I decided to double dip on Dostoyevsky. First was Crime and Punishment, and then this film which seems so extremely well suited for Kurosawa. Very humanistic in its approach, except a little bleak at film's end, which isn't too far off for most of Kurosawa's work. It had been ages since I'd seen a film of his, and this was a delight. Sandwiched in between Rashomon and Ikiru the film doesn't get a particularly large amount of recognition, but I would say its certainly worthy company.

Kurosawa has appropriated the recent war into the novel giving it a contemporary feel, and that was the leading cause to the main characters "Idiocy". Kurosawa also borrowed frequent Ozu leading lady Setsuko Hara who plays the proud love interest of nearly everyone in the film. Kameda (Masayuki Mora) seems to embody all of the inherent good that Kurosawa seems so willing to believe is out there. A man who is far from perfect, who is taking his second chance at life and trying to be kinder. He is contrasted obviously with Toshiro Mifune's character who is largely bad, but with his own good streak. No bad guy is ever completely evil in a Kurosawa film, and this is no different.
wpqx
 

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby wpqx » Tue Jan 08, 2008 6:59 am

Street of Shame (1956) - Kenji Mizoguchi

Well just as I had commented on Ozu's An Autumn Afternoon and Kurosawa's Madadayo, comes another signature farewell film. There is a sense of melancholy towards this work and the whole film has that feeling like catastrophe is only a moment away. This uneasiness is very common in Mizoguchi's work and if one can say his films collectively represent something I'd say its something of a beauty within suffering, and in particular the suffering of women. It seems perfectly fitting that Mizoguchi's career would end here. It doesn't some up a lifetime of knowledge in the way Madadayo did, but seems a little more aligned with Ozu's last effort. Mizoguchi was not particularly known for his contemporary films, and there is a certain timeless quality to this picture, for as they say it depicts the "oldest profession".

Since plot wise most of these films are somewhat simple, granted there are usually multiple narratives, I tried to focus more on the staging. Throughout the film I didn't notice a single closeup, but despite keeping a physical distance between the camera and the characters he still manages to create a tremendous deal of intimacy. It doesn't take much for us to feel for all of the characters. There are no particularly bad people in the film and even the characters that we may at first resent we leave with a sense of either admiration or at the very least understanding for everyone in the film. No one in particular thinks they're doing anything wrong. Although some may be over rationalizing their decision in life, all are doing what they are out of necessity.
wpqx
 

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby wpqx » Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:20 am

The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice (1952) - Yasujiro Ozu

I never really noticed how much Ozu frames within a frame. Here he is constantly cutting his space down putting characters in door openings, blocked off, and narrow. Just an interesting device in what certainly seems a typical Ozu film. The idea of a woman not wanting to marry has had a few reasons in the past, here it might at first seem like the girl just doesn't want to stop having fun, but as Setsuko constantly watches the women she knows complain and nag about their husbands it's not hard to see why it wouldn't be too appealing for her. Very female driven here treating nearly every man as a very supporting part.
wpqx
 

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Mar 05, 2008 3:42 am

A GEISHA (Japan / 1953)



The transitional nature of postwar Japanese society was one of the key thematic concerns of domestic filmmakers at the time. In A Geisha (Gion bayashi), which is set in the Gion district of Kyoto and is also known as "Gion Festival Music," Mizoguchi Kenji takes us into the world of the geisha, where the traditional values were also in the process of being negotiated at the hands of modernity. Similar to the director's earlier Sisters of the Gion (1936), the film deals with the lives of two women, a 16-year-old runaway named Eiko (Wakao Ayako, Street of Shame [1956]) and a successful but aging geisha Miyoharu (Kogure Michiyo, Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice [1952]), who ends up taking on the young "orphan" as an apprentice. Mizoguchi credibly charts the duo's differing ideologies and ethics as they find themselves adrift in the treacherous new world that calls into question the very meaning of their profession (a true geisha, by definition, is a "performing artist," not a prostitute). Consequently, Eiko's preconceived romanticism suffers just as much as Miyoharu's stoic independence. However, the film gains its emotional undercurrent from the bond which gradually develops between the two; Miyoharu ends up assuming the role of a friend, a sister and a mother, knowing full well the pitfalls which await Eiko if she didn't. Mizoguchi's spatial dynamics keenly convey an enclosing world that offers no respite to its victims. Yet at the same time, with his employment of traveling shots -- which according to his DP at Daiei, Miyagawa Kazuo (Ugetsu [1953]), confirmed a shift from the director's depth-of-field approach in order to accommodate his storytelling techniques in the '50s -- Mizoguchi uncommonly hints toward a stance of defiance. Adapted from a novel by Kawaguchi Matsutarô, who collaborated with Mizoguchi on a number of occasions, A Geisha however lacks the depth and scope of Naruse's similarly themed Flowing (1956). But this beautifully acted effort is more emotionally reserved (i.e., less overtly melodramatic) than the infinitely popular Sansho the Bailiff (1954), the film Mizoguchi made next.
arsaib4
 

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:13 am

wpqx: "A Geisha (1953) 6/10"

What gives?
arsaib4
 

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby wpqx » Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:36 am

It's been a long time since I've seen it, but I remembered it being overly melodramatic and seemed to be more by the numbers than most of Mizo's other 50's films.
wpqx
 

Re: Japanese Journals - The Classics. Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Mar 12, 2008 12:22 am

As I noted in my review, I was actually surprised by its emotional reserve, especially when compared to a few other Mizoguchi films I've seen. By the numbers? Perhaps. At this point, I slightly prefer A Geisha to two of his 50's efforts: The Lady of Musashino, which also deals with the notions of tradition and modernity and at the least is, as they say, "worth watching," and, yes, Chikamatsu monogatari, whose happenstance-laden narrative felt a tad on the manipalative side, though overall it's a good, solid piece of work. But I'm not done with it, and I hope the same applies to you when it comes to A Geisha. On the other hand, after a second viewing of Naruse's Flowing, which I referenced earlier, I now consider it as one of his honest-to-God masterpieces.
arsaib4
 

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