Tag Archives: Mizoguchi

Film Favorites: Sansho the Bailiff


Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan’s master filmic fable-maker, has only recently re-emerged in the Western world as a living, breathing entity after years of seeming abandonment to the history books. This is all the more curious because, barring Kurosawa’s Rashomon, he was the Western world’s first introduction to Japanese cinema and by far the most popular Japanese director internationally at the time (yes, more popular than Kurosawa). And yet he was almost swept away on the currents of forgotten time. Pity, and indeed ironic, because of the three acknowledged masters of Japanese cinema (Ozu, Kurosawa, Mizoguchi), his films are by far the most timeless. While Ozu dealt in eerily impressionist and heartbreaking depictions of his present-day Japan, and Kurosawa brought down the hammer with classical themes rendered bigger than life, Mizoguchi’s films were haunting, elegiac statements of dread that nonetheless discovered an eternal humanity and respect for all humans in elevating their shared depression to mythic status. Continue reading

Film Favorites: Ugetsu


A film of quiet, haunting beauty, Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu is a ghost story of the most chilling variety. It isn’t about the terror ghosts can cause passingly to you, what they can make you feel, and how they can even cause you bodily harm; it’s about what they can make you do, how they can control you, and how you can be made agency-less by your own desires manifested in the world around you. It’s the story of two brothers: Genjuro, who quests after money, and Tobei, who wants fame and honor. When Genjuro goes to the city to sell the pots he makes, he finds himself awash in the glories of monetary success, and when Tobei tags along, he eventually gets lost in the armor of a samurai he kills. It’s a grand tragedy of two men driven by ambition and obsession, a drama of Shakespearean proportions given quiet, breathing life, above all, by pure visual and aural craftsmanship. We look in and it looks back with quiet rage and somber mournfulness. We look in and it makes us wish we hadn’t.  Continue reading