Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mizoguchi series at the Cinematheque

[Press release from the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

September 6 – November 1 (9 films)
Kenji Mizoguchi is an exalted figure in the history of cinema. Long considered one of the "big three" of classical Japanese cinema (along with Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa), Mizoguchi (1898-1956) directed over 80 films (silent and sound) in a career that spanned 34 years. He was a supreme visual stylist, and one of the foremost proponents of the long take and choreographed camera movement. His great theme was the exploitation of women, supposedly the result of childhood trauma he experienced when his older sister was sold into “geishadom” by his impoverished family.
     Though Mizoguchi made great movies in the 1930s and 1940s (one of them, The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums, shows on 9/10 at the Cleveland Museum of Art), most experts regard the films he made during the 1950s, at the end of his life, as his finest achievements. And what a run it was—one celebrated masterpiece after another (The Life of Oharu, Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff, and Crucified Lovers, to name just four). Mizoguchi’s movies from this decade are always turning up on film critics’ lists of the best films ever made. Throughout the fifties Mizoguchi worked with the celebrated cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa. (He also shot Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Ozu’s 1959 Floating Weeds, and too many other major Japanese movies to mention.) Their collaboration is just one reason why the current unavailability of North American film prints of many of Mizoguchi’s 1950s classics is so distressing.
     Fortunately The Japan Foundation in Tokyo owns English-subtitled prints of most of the late Mizoguchi films that are unavailable here.  And they have generously agreed to co-present this series and loan (and ship) their precious copies to us.  Thanks to them (and especially Kanako Shiraski in The Japan Foundation’s New York office), we are able to present nine Mizoguchi beauties from his greatest decade.
SAT        9/6         5:00 PM                THE LIFE OF OHARU
SAT        9/13       5:00 PM                UGETSU
SAT        9/20       5:00 PM                A GEISHA
SUN       9/28       3:45 PM                SANSHO THE BAILIFF
SAT        10/4       5:00 PM                A WOMAN OF RUMOR
SAT        10/11     5:00 PM                CRUCIFIED LOVERS
SAT        10/18     5:00 PM                PRINCESS YANG KWEI-FEI
THU       10/23     7:00 PM                TALES OF THE TAIRA CLAN
SAT        11/1       5:00 PM                STREET OF SHAME

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