Kenji Mizoguchi – Meito bijomaru AKA The Famous Sword Bijomaru (1945)

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Synopsis:
synopsis Kiyone Sakurai, an apprentice swordmaker makes a sword for his guardian, Kozaemon Onoda. Onoda breaks the sword while defending his lord which eventually leads to his death at the hands of Naito, when Naito demands to marry his daughter Sasae. Sasae vows to avenge her father’s death and pleads for Kiyone Sakurai to make a special sword for her. So Kiyone and his fellow swordmaker Kiyotsugu go to the master swordsmith Kiyohide Yamatomori to learn their craft and forge the sword. Continue reading

Kenji Mizoguchi – Akasen chitai AKA Street of Shame (1956)

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For his final film, Mizoguchi brought a lifetime of experience to bear on the heartbreaking tale of a brothel full of women whose dreams are constantly being shattered by the socioeconomic realities surrounding them. Set in Tokyo’s Red Light District (the literal translation of the Japanese title), Street of Shame was so cutting, and its popularity so great, that when an antiprostitution law was passed in Japan just a few months after the film’s release, some said it was a catalyst. (Criterion) Continue reading

Kenji Mizoguchi – Sanshô dayû AKA Sansho the Bailiff (1954) (HD)

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Sansho Dayu… is the triumphant summation of Mizoguchi’s style and themes, as well as the most compassionate response imaginable to those atrocities which had been committed in then very recent years, in Japan and all over the world. It is the most humanist of films, but it asserts that humanism is powerless without politics, just as politics is purposeless without humanism. The last sequence is the most perfect ending in cinema, so broad in implication, so exquisite in form. The reunion of mother and son – the revelation of human love – is at once the most important thing in the world, and an event insignificant against the panorama of human suffering. The double perspective – never to see things in isolation, always in context – is assured by Mizoguchi’s style, and defines his art. Sansho Dayu is, in Gilbert Adair’s words, “one of those films for whose sake the cinema exists”.
Alexander Jacoby, Senses Of Cinema.com Continue reading

Kenji Mizoguchi – Genroku Chûshingura aka The 47 Ronin (1941)

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Genroku Chushingura, also known as The Forty-Seven Ronin of the Genroku Era, or in the case of Kenji Mizoguchi’s two-part, 220-minute adaptation, The Loyal Forty-Seven Ronin (1941-42), is one of Japan’s great historical legends. Retold in countless theatrical versions and perhaps several dozen films, Ronin tells the story of a band of masterless samurai (ronin) who exact revenge for the death of their beloved master and then commit hara-kiri. In her book Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo: Japanese Cinema Under the American Occupation 1945-1952, Kyoko Hirano notes, “It is said that whenever a film studio fell into financial distress, it would produce a film based on this story, for a guaranteed hit.” Continue reading