|Elegies of Moonlight and Rain
- The Cinema of Kenji Mizoguchi
will screen at the Egyptian March 4 - 6, 2005.
Born impoverished in 1898 Tokyo and exposed first-hand from an early
age to the systematic oppression of women in Japanese society his sister was sold
as a geisha and his father abused his mother and sister pantheon film director
Kenji Mizoguchi had numerous influences molding his worldview. From his early silent films
such as A PAPER DOLLS WHISPER OF SPRING (KAMI NINGYORU NO SASAYAKI, 1926) through
his first sound masterworks such as OSAKA ELEGY (NANIWA EREJI, 1936) and STORY OF THE LAST
CHRYSANTHEMUM (ZANGIKU MONOGATARI, 1939) through such final treasures as UGETSU
(1953) and SANSHO THE BAILIFF (SANSHO DAYU, 1954), Mizoguchi emerged with a body of work
that is as sublimely timeless as it is transcendental, rising above the aggression and
exploitation found in the world-at-large. A painstaking attention to period detail as well
as lighting, frame composition and long, unbroken takes coupled with his intuitive outlook
and empathy for his characters, reveals a simple poetry of supernatural power. Along with
Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, Mizoguchi remains at the pinnacle of not just
Japans motion picture legacy, but of international cinema. "He is the
Japanese director I admire and respect the most
He never compromised. He never said,
"Thisll be enough."
he continually pushed every element until it
reached his own vision." Akira Kurosawa.
We are pleased to present this short retrospective of some of
Mizoguchis most enduring masterpieces.
Wednesday, March 9 7:30 PM
SANSHO THE BAILIFF (SANSHO DAYU), 1954,
Janus Films, 120 min. Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi. In medieval Japan, a decent noble
family is splintered when the father, the compassionate provincial governor is exiled. The
mother is sold into prostitution and the son and daughter shipped to the slave labor camp
of oppressive Sansho The Bailiff (Eitaro Shindo). Kinuyo Tanaka, Kyoko Kagawa,
Akitake Kono, Noriko Tachibana, Yoshiaki Hanayanagi all turn in splendid performances,
perfectly embodying the slow grind of degradation and ultimately the transcendence of
suffering as times passes. One of Mizoguchis most enduring classics.
>> Also playing at the Egyptian on March 6.
Thursday, March 10 7:30 PM
STORY OF THE LAST CHRYSANTHEMUM (ZANGIKU
MONOGATARI) 1939, Janus Films, 148 min. Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi. Chagrined to
learn that his acting success in 1885 Tokyos theatre world is entirely due to his
fathers reputation, novice thespian Kikunosuke (Shotaro Hanayanagi) leaves his
troupe to blaze his trail in the hinterlands, rising and falling solely by his own merits.
Soon he is joined by Otoku (Kakuko Mori), a former family servant fired for her honesty
and the budding romance between the two. Regarded as one of Mizoguchis finest films.
>> Also playing at the Egyptian on March 4.
Friday, March 11 7:30 PM
UGETSU (UGETSU MONOGATARI), 1953, Janus
Films, 94 min. Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi.An ambitious potter (Masayuki Mori) and
his devoted spouse (Kinuyo Tanaka) as well as a kindred couple (Eitaro Ozawa, Mitsuko
Mito) are torn apart by the civil war chaos of 16th century Japan. Both men
realize their material dreams but at a tragic cost to their respective mates. In
particular, Moris shallow success is reflected in his delirious romance with a
ghostly noblewoman (Machiko Kyo), an affair that will drive him to the brink of
madness. One of the most poignant evocations of the illusory nature of worldly desires and
missed opportunities as well as one of the most haunting depictions of the supernatural
ever committed to celluloid. Winner of the 1953 Venice Film Festival Silver Lion Award. "If
poetry is manifest in each second, each shot filmed by Mizoguchi,it is because
the instinctive reflection of the filmmakers creative nobility
the director of
UGETSU MONOGATARI can describe an adventure which is at the same time a cosmogony."
Jean-Luc Godard. >> Also playing at the Egyptian on March 4.
SISTERS OF THE GION (GION NO SHIMAI), 1936,
Janus Films, 95 min. Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi. Yoko Umemura and Isuzu Yamada portray
two sisters who are both geishas in the Gion district and have vastly different attitudes
towards men. Umekichi (Umemura) is idealistic and genuinely in love with her bankrupt
suitor, but Omocha (Yamada) is a mercenary creature always unscrupulously manipulating to
elevate both their incomes. However, Fate has less-than-kind futures in store for both
siblings. Mizoguchi brilliantly manages to chart a universal course not just particular to
Japanese women but all people exploited by economic forces outside their control. >>
Also playing at the Egyptian on March 5.
Saturday, March 12 5:00 PM
LIFE OF OHARU (SAIKAKU ICHIDAI ONNA) 1952,
Janus Films, 137 min. Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi. Based on one of Japans first
novels, the 17th century "The Woman Who Loved Love" by Saikaku Ihara,
Kinuyo Tanaka is Oharu, a samurais daughter expelled from her station as a
lady-in-waiting at the Imperial Palace for falling-in-love with a man below her rank.
Driven into exile along with her parents, she soon resorts to being a kept woman then
finally a common prostitute. Mizoguchi expertly walks a tightrope, delivering an
unflinching examination of a sensitive womans emotional brutalization without
manipulative sentimentality. Another masterwork. With Ichiro Sugai, Toshiro Mifune.
>> Also playing at the Egyptian on March 5.
Saturday, March 12 8:30 PM
OSAKA ELEGY (NANIWA EREJI) 1936, Janus
Films, 90 min. Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi. Ayako (Isuzu Yamada) becomes her
bosss mistress to financially assist her wayward father and student brother. But her
efforts go largely unappreciated by her family and set in motion a new spiral of
catastrophes. Mizoguchis first acknowledged masterwork is a simple tale transformed
by his intuitive mise-en-scene and the inspired performances into an emotionally
devastating powerhouse. >> Also playing at the Egyptian on March 6.
STREET OF SHAME (AKASEN CHITAI), 1956,
JanusFilms, 87 min. Maestro director Kenji Mizoguchis swansong is a moving
portrait of post-WW2 working class prostitutes in Dreamland, a Tokyo brothel. Machiko Kyo,
Ayako Wakao, Aiko Mimasu and Michiyo Kogure supply just several of the exceptional
performances on display as Mizoguchi crosscuts through a patchwork quilt of sagas,
sympathetically but unsentimentally examing each womans plight and dreams for a
better life. >> Also playing at the Egyptian on March 5.