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Keeper of the Clockwork Heart: The Late Films of Kenji Mizoguchi

October 22, 2013

Late-MizoguchiIn a career spanning thirty three years, the Japanese film director Kenji Mizoguchi produced a total of eighty three feature films. While many of those films have now been lost and only a few have ever been made available to Western audiences, recent years have seen an attempt to reclaim the legacy of Mizoguchi and introduce his work to a new generation of film-lovers. So far, the most visible element of this campaign has been the very visible release of Mizoguchi’s later films by Criterion in America and Masters of Cinema in the UK. Next week, Masters of Cinema are releasing a blu-ray box set entitled Late Mizoguchi: Eight Films 1951-1956. The set includes:

  • Ugetsu Monogatari (1951)
  • Oyu Sama (1951)
  • Gion Bayashi (1953)
  • Sansho Dayu (1954)
  • Chikamatsu Monogatari (1954)
  • Uwasa No Onna (1954)
  • Yokihi (1955)
  • Akasen Chitai (1956)

My review of the complete box set is now available on FilmJuice. As you might expect for a review of an eight-film box set, the review is kind of long but I think the length was necessary in order to explore not only Mizoguchi’s approach to narrative but also his attitudes to women and how these attitudes to women transitioned over time from bewailing their fate to celebrating their courage and finally to railing at the capitalist system that dehumanises and immiserates them. I personally consider Akasen Chitai to be one of the greatest films of all time as no other film so perfectly captures the ways in which the system bullies and coerces us into betraying each other for personal advancement.

I was actually lucky enough to review some of these films when they were first released on DVD back in 2007:

Re-reading these reviews just now, it’s interesting to see that while my dim opinions of Yokihi and Chikamatsu Monogatari have not massively changed, my feelings on both Uwasa No Onna and Akasen Chitai have improved immeasurably with time. Akasen Chitai may have impressed me at the time but it also stayed with me and had a real impact on how I thought about both the world and film. Since then, I’ve seen quite a few works that have been celebrated for their politics and their devotion to social realism but nothing in either British or Italian Social Realism come even close to the focus and power of Akasen Chitai.

4 Comments
  1. October 22, 2013 12:27 pm

    Is the release date given on Filmjuice (yesterday) accurate?

    The box set isn’t listed among the new releases on the Eureka site (though you can find evidence of if you search for Mizoguchi directly). And the only copies I can find listed for sale on e.g. Amazon are via sellers, and given the confusion around the release date I’m disinclined to trust them!

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  2. October 22, 2013 12:34 pm

    Ah… I see what has happened.

    They’ve pushed the release back to next monday (press kit told me it was out yesterday) and I’ve pulled the artwork for the DVD box set that came out in 2007. I’ll change the post accordingly.

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  3. grg.berger permalink
    October 22, 2013 2:46 pm

    Hallo Jonathan, Thanks for this. That makes one more film to buy. Your review is fine. Best,  George

    Skickat från min Samsung Mobil

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  4. friendlygun permalink
    October 22, 2013 2:51 pm

    Ah, that explains it. Thanks Jonathan. I’m very interested in some of these films having read your write-up, so this may be the first MoC set I buy. :)

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