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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 1:11 am 
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Haggai wrote:
Hmm...well, that one was REALLY startling. Why not fade out, since some time passes between that scene and the next, or some other less confusing transition? The way it is doesn't make any sense, and it really sticks out. There isn't anything else like it in this film. Not that I'm calling out Mizoguchi for being a hack, but that was a major "WTF?" moment.

You find some similar abrupt jumps in Lady from Musashino (and other places) -- one also finds them in films of other Japanese directors who eschewed fade outs.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 10:54 am 

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Are there any examples like that from Ozu? I'm just thinking of him because he rarely used fades or any other optical methods. I still have to catch up on quite a bit of the Criterion/Eclipse Ozu releases, so there's plenty I still have to see even among what's readily available.

In any event, I'm confused by why Mizoguchi would have chosen to handle this jump in this particular way. He handles other transitions in Women of the Night in pretty straightforward fashion, including some fades and dissolves, so I wonder why he would do this one so suddenly. Regardless of his reasons, I don't think it worked in this case.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 11:24 am 
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I remember finding some elisions in Ozu surprising at first -- but I have grown so use to his methods by now I can't recall many details.

One finds some rather disconcerting jumps in Shimizu's films (viz. Four Seasons of Childhood and Memoir of a Song Girl).

I find Ladies of the Night a rather rough cut gem -- but precious nonetheless. Despite flaws I could easily gripe about, this is so visually impressive I just don't want to be bothered by peccadilloes.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:17 pm 

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Haggai wrote:
I just watched Women of the Night...is this a complete print?

Imdb lists the film as:
Quote:
105 min | USA:75 min

Can anyone verify or refute the 105 min time?


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:38 pm 
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jmdb says 75 minutes:

http://www.jmdb.ne.jp/1948/bx000560.htm

I've never heard any mention of a longer version.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 1:04 pm 
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In any event, I'm confused by why Mizoguchi would have chosen to handle this jump in this particular way.

I think this abruptness is intended to shock... Certainly near the beggining of Lady of Musashino (which I like more than MK) there is a scene involving the father's death which uses a similarly abrupt 'jump'. Bresson too does something similar in Au Hasard Balthazar with the death (again...maybe a pattern here?) of a man just after his wife has made a plea to God.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 1:20 pm 
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Don Lope de Aguirre wrote:
I think this abruptness is intended to shock... Certainly near the beggining of Lady of Musashino (which I like more than MK) there is a scene involving the father's death which uses a similarly abrupt 'jump'. Bresson too does something similar in Au Hasard Balthazar with the death (again...maybe a pattern here?) of a man just after his wife has made a plea to God.

Mizoguchi does this _twice_ in Lady of Musashino -- and that was too many times. ;~}


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:39 pm 
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Good god, I watched Akasen Chitai and then Women of the Night the following day-- what utterly different films. Obviously Street Of Shame is the better of the two-- what a remarkable film... a total masterpiece. I absolutely loved-- LOVED-- the clinical, uneditorialized bird's-eye detatchment in the narrative tone. It never does a thing to try to get you to sympathize with the girls' misery... and therein probably lies it's power: it's casual editorial indifference to the going's on replicates that of the society at large that contemporaneously operated via 'Out of sight-- out of mind.' The film begins, we pick up the stories, with peeks at each woman's backstory gleaned essentially entirely through conversation, bits of info picked up here & there by things uttered by the girls and those around them. Never does Mizo employ devices to bring you in closer during moments of pathos, never brings up swelling music that weeps on their behalf at a crisis point or resolution. The music is even more gorgeously spaced out than that of Women of the Night (which features some pretty fucking strange--wonderful-- music). The spiking up and down of quick-climbing notes on slide guitar felt to me like spirochetes of syphillis shooting thru the system, or the intermittent needles of madness zapping thru the lives & minds of the girl's tiredly frantic minds.

I'm not sure all of Women of the Night worked 100% for me-- at definitely did, a la Kerpan, register at times as a particularly lurid exploitation film (although I didn't find the visuals, a la MK, all that lush or alluring, save for the studio-bound setups of the grand catfight finale in the graveyard, where he excercises more control--naturally, since the rest is shot entirely on location using what most likely was a combination of bounced natural light and fill lamps; the location shots and bulk of the interiors, save for some sultry posing/leg shots, was pretty bland imho). As a document of postwar Japanese strife, of the hustles and the schemes and the general atmosphere of dissolution and how a plunge into the human septic tank likely played out for a young female with Nothing and No-one... in these terms it was very interesting. In terms of storytelling I found it weak and choppy. The narrative jumps mentioned above felt superklunky to no real benefit or positive effect, and many of the characters only moderately interesting/engaging. It all felt pretty unsophisticated, particularly for Mizoguchi. Painting such a raging sufferfest-- and shooting it on location-- rather missed the point of neorealism, which was more than a painful story of the poor shot with cheap film on location with flat light. I didn't dislike the film, but I can't say I genuinely liked it.

That ending catfight was just............ surreal. I didn't know what to make of it.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 5:21 pm 
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Schreck neither do I!

I think it's definitely one of the weaker late Mizos. An entirely neglected picture from the era and far FAR more interesting is the astonishing Madame Yuki which after dispensing with the introductory virginal house girl who is our initial guide into the pervers world of Yuki's household, presents a female lead who appaears to have a sexual addiction to her violent and neglectful husband to the point where during one of their repeted sexual bouts, the husband invites the girl, and the audience via the camera to observe the next round. It seem to prefiugure the exhibitionist scene in Oshima's Ai non Corrida. There's nothing like it elsewhere in Mizo!!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:41 pm 
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I have to disagree about Women of the Night. I found it magnificent and even better than the certainly good Street of Shame. I don't know. I found it fascinating and very surprising. I was not expecting this level of realism and "ugliness". And I had already seen Sisters of the Gion, Woman in the Rumour, Gion Bayashi and Street of Shame (that is, Mizoguchi's other films about geishas and prostitutes) before I watched Women of the Night. But still, I was unprepared for this film.

And it seems that I am not alone in this matter. Tadao Sato in his book about Mizoguchi on page 94 goes so far as to call Women of the Night "Mizoguchi's finest film".


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 9:56 pm 
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I have to also sing the praises of Potrait of Madame Yuki -- a woefully under-appreciated (and very beautiful) film.

Women of the Night will never be at the top of my Mizoguchi list (though I prefer it to Sansho and Ugetsu), but I do think it is one of his most entertaining films (and one of his most interesting looking ones). But Street of Shame will never move OUT of the my Mizo top 5 (even though it is no longer my no. 1 Mizo film).


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 10:39 pm 
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Street of Shame totally knocked me out. My favorite in the set (at the moment). And yeah, now one of my favorite Mizoguchis films.

I had the odd experience of unintentionally watching this for the first time the day after I watched Flowing for the first time. And I was, like, wait a minute, didn't I just watch the same story (loosely), except just take down the lurid angle about 40 notches? I mean, of course, they're not the same, but it was very interesting to absorb these two very different takes on the scenario of a group of female "entertainers" (of quite different sorts) living and working together. The experience of seeing the two back to back definitely impacted my evolving reactions to both directors. I think it deepened my appreciation of Naruse's subtlety.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 11:46 pm 
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I find it somewhat harmful to watch Street of Shame too soon afterseeing Naruse's Flowing -- as doing so really highlights just how much more sophisticated Naruse was than the much more highly lauded Mizoguchi -- and I really want to continue loving Street of Shame.

Just as Mizoguchi resented Kurosawa's foreign acclaim during the 50s -- and tried to beat Kurosawa on his own ground (and failed), I suspect he resented Naruse's domestic success even more -- and also tried to beat him as well. Mizoguchi "failed" to do this -- but still turned out some of my favorite late films in his attempt to do so (Gion Festival Music, Uwasa no onna and Street of Shame). However, my favorite Mizoguchi is one that probably could have been made by no one else -- Crucified Lovers. ;~}


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:19 am 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
I find it somewhat harmful to watch Street of Shame too soon afterseeing Naruse's Flowing -- as doing so really highlights just how much more sophisticated Naruse was than the much more highly lauded Mizoguchi
I actually found Flowing to be the (slightly) lesser of the two, essentially a straight on Quiet Naruse Melodrama (which is a superfine thing in itself, of course) resting heavily on an incredible all-star cast doing what they do best-- provide a nuanced interpretation of the text. He nontheless uses the medium of the cinema in a far more predictable fashion-- I mean that in his terms and in general terms

Akasen Chitai is something for me something far more exciting and provacative: Mizo ties his hands behind his back, has himself blindfolded, and with a spauldine taped between his jaws, finds a most affecting hands-on approach, a unique vision, and voice of crystal clarity... all of which culminate in a statement of profoundest effect. To me this beyond the quietude of Naruse-- this out in the netherworld of antimatter blowing up it's mirror image.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:20 am 
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I admire Mizoguchi, but rarely fully trust him. I love much about Street of Shame -- but feel neither Ozu nor Naruse would ever have indulged in the kind of maudlin (and clunky) sub-thread involving the older prostitute and her rather creepy grown son (the only real flaw I find in the film -- possibly due to the fact that I find neither the mother or the son up to the level of the rest of the cast).

Different strokes for different folks -- but I find the "quietude" of Ozu and Naruse far preferable (on average) to Mizoguchi's (often gorgeous) histrionics. ;~}


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:52 am 
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Mizoguchi's simplicity in Sansho is more subtle and sophisticated than Naruse's and Ozu's films. Especially with Mizoguchi's later films, his use of "histrionics" is at a minimum. I think Sansho, Ugetsu, and Oharu places Mizoguchi as either the first or second best japanese director ever.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 6:41 am 
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Having re-watched "Ugetsu" recently, I cannot help agreeing with Michael that Mizo indeed 'failed' when he tried to beat Kurosawa on his own territory, i.e. a specific sort of action-filled (period) film. I noticed this especially in the depiction of the samurai in "Ugetsu". Both directors clearly took a critical stance to the feudal system and managed to show its inherent corruptness, but Kurosawa probably wouldn't have exposed them to such easy ridicule as Mizo does e.g. in the beheading scene, or shortly after when the head is brought to the general. These are indeed 'histrionics', and they are less well motivated than the histrionics of Mifune's character in "Rashomon", for instance.

Also, in both "Ugetsu" and "Seven Samurai" the village people do not exactly come over as sympathetic, but in Kurosawa's film each of the villagers is far more individualized, and their motivations and humanity (for good or worse) much more pronounced. That is saying nothing against "Ugetsu", which I still consider to be a marvellous film - and I agree fully with Michael on the qualities of "Chikamatsu"-, but I cannot help preferring Mizo's contemporary films (in which I would include the wonderful "Miss Oyu"), too. Smaller scale, but far greater intensity and a more 'urgent' sense of meaning, especially in "Street of Shame" which I find startlingly modern and almost a break with what Mizo had done before. I really have to re-watch "Flowing" for a comparison, but as I've just received (finally!) the BFI set, I'll start with these films in my attempt to finally 'get' Naruse.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:09 pm 
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The "ghost" parts of Ugetsu are matchless. The samurai parts -- NOT.

Mizoguchi worked in three, not two, main super-genres -- in addition to historical and contemporary dramas, he made many Meiji-mono (romances, often tragic, set in the Meiji era). I believe Miss Oyu is set in the (late) Meiji era. One complication -- some films with nominally contemporary settings are really Meiji-mono at their core (viz. Lady of Musashino). On the other hand, there are films nominally set in the historical past that are essentially contemporary films (e.g. Yamanaka's Humanity and Paper Balloons)..

I have loves. and strong dislikes to Mizoguchi films in each of these categories -- so I don't think I want to favor one over the other (within Mizoguchi's catalog -- in general, I prefer contemporary setting films).

While I love many of Mizoguchi's films -- I can not imagine describing his work as (typically) either "simple" or "not histrionic".

FWIW -- When it comes to samurai corruption, I prefer Yamanaka and Uchida (Bloody Spear) to either Mizoguchi or Kurosawa.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:22 pm 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
The "ghost" parts of Ugetsu are matchless.

Absolutely, I think I even prefer them to "Kwaidan", but you don't like that film very much anyway, if I remember correctly. I would include the boat ride over the lake in "Ugetsu" among the 'ghost' parts, too, although strictly speaking nothing supernatural happens there. But here as later among the ghost parts proper I'm amazed about the effect Mizo achieves although he is completely refraining from all the usual 'horror ingredients'. Especially that long shot with the two of them sitting in the garden: I don't know why I find that 'ghostly', but I do. Perhaps it has something to do with the 'whiteness' of the image there. But definitely an iconic moment.

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Mizoguchi worked in three, not two, main super-genres -- in addition to historical and contemporary dramas, he made many Meiji-mono (romances, often tragic, set in the Meiji era). I believe Miss Oyu is set in the (late) Meiji era. One complication -- some films with nominally contemporary settings are really Meiji-mono at their core (viz. Lady of Musashino).

Yes, that makes a lot of sense. Does your dislike for "Musashino" come from that conflation or mix of genres? In the sense that the film, although set in the present, looks back and lets the action and motivations be like in that past era? Not that I think "Musashino" is a great film, but there are definitely some films by Mizo that I like far less ("Yokihi" and "Taira Clan", for instance, both historical pieces unsurprisingly).


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:52 pm 
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Tommaso

I suspect we love pretty much all the same moments of Ugetsu -- whether technically "ghostly" or not. It definitely would be faint praise if I merely ranked these preferred parts of Ugetsu as "better than Kwaidan" (one of my least loved Japanese films of all time).

I find Musashino to be badly written and (surprisingly) badly edited. So much so that some wonderful acting and cinematography may get short shrift from me.

Taira clan is pretty close to the bottom of my Mizoguchi list (down there with Victory of Women). Yokihi fares better -- because it contains a number of moments that I love (even if the film is rather weak, taken as a whole).

MY essential historical Mizoguchi -- 47 Ronin, Musashi Miyamoto (as distinctively his own as Naruse's Okuni and Gohei), Utamaro, Oharu, Crucified Lovers.

MY essential Meiji (plus perhaps very early Taisho) era films

Water Magician, Downfall of Osen, Straits of Love and Hate (with a much feistier than average heroine), Story of Late Chrysanthemums, Love of Sumako the Actress (possibly his best late 40s film),

I don't _hate_ the lovely Miss Oyu at all -- but feel the story's extreme awkwardness undercuts its virtues.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:49 pm 
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Well, when I said "better than Kwaidan", for me this is almost the highest praise imaginable. But I fear we will never come to an agreement about "Kwaidan". I think that like "Ran" it's very much a love or hate thing, with not a lot of middle ground in between.

As to the many other films you mention, I of course haven't seen them all. I guess in general I'm more forgiving about not-so-well written films as long as the cinematography is right. Probably that's what saves "Musashino" for me; curiously it doesn't do that if it comes to "Yokihi" (which however I plan to see again soon, perhaps my initial opinion will change), and in "Taira Clan" not even the images amazed me that much. On the other hand it's precisely the images plus VERY much the music, which I find totally emotionally gripping, that make me rave so much about "Miss Oyu", even though the story may be not the strongest. Also, it's one of the few films that remind me visually of "Sunrise" without falling terribly short of it and without obviously imitating it (unlike those late 20s Ford silents). I'm not even sure whether Mizoguchi even thought of Murnau when he filmed the images of the swampy fields that end the film, but I couldn't resist the association at all after someone else here first came up with it.


Michael Kerpan wrote:

MY essential historical Mizoguchi -- 47 Ronin, Musashi Miyamoto (as distinctively his own as Naruse's Okuni and Gohei), Utamaro, Oharu, Crucified Lovers.


I haven't seen "Musashi" and "Utamaro", but the other three are among my favourite Mizos in any case, quite regardless of genre. Perhaps because despite all their occasional grandiosity, they are far more intimate films than "Sansho" and a lot of "Ugetsu". And I share your praise for "Water Magician", "Osen", and "Chrysanthemums". The first two of these remind me that IF we should ever get a second Mizo-Eclipse set, they should at least include SOME silents. I found that these films unlike some of his very late films contained surprisingly little mannerisms (perhaps a better word than 'histrionics' and also not the same as 'theatricality') despite their stylishness and melodrama. They have a nice natural flow which I find completely convincing.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 4:03 pm 
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A "silent Mizoguchi" set is an essential -- but then so are all too many other things (just sticking with Japan)!

Well -- Sunrise is only my number 5 Murnau film (not that I dislike it). Mizoguchi (like most Japanese directors) would have been quite familiar with the work of Murnau.

When happy with cinematography, I make allowances for plot deficiencies -- but I found a few too many jarring moments in Miss Oyu (though not nearly so many as in Musashino). On the other hand, plot problems no longer bother me at all (or almost) in Women of the Night (though they did when I first saw it).


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 4:17 pm 
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I think use of the word 'histrionics' is instructive here, as this is what I think really lies at the heart of this discussion about "sophistication".

MK it doesn't surprise me that Naruse & Ozu would appeal to you more than say individuals like Mizoguchi and Kobayashi. Naruse & Ozu came at last to a place of relatively straightforward-- though extremely personal (moreso in Ozu's case)-- melodrama that operated within the bounds of the contemporary family (with exceptions of course, especially for Naruse). They tended to speak of individuals in all their smallness, growing and aching, suffering and learning. Any statements about 'The World' are mostly going to have to be extrapolated by proxy thru the medium of the characters within these melodramas.

Mizoguchi and Kobayashi are angry men-- they're seeking at times to shake people out of a moral lethargy... that "mono no aware" in some cases is bullshit, that the paradigm of Silent Suffering & Acceptance are partly responsible for the suffering it abides in the first place. What some might call histrionics (and by this I don't mean material like the graveyard catfight in WOmen of the Might, which is something altogether weird) are really a form of progressive engagement, a seeking of an active dialog thru the medium of the art form. Whereas Ozu and Naruse in terms of tone are reductive, simplistic, seeking out an extremely delicate currency to provoke the kind of nuanced responses that they do in the viewer, Mizo & Kobayashi are more direct. Whereas Naruse or Ozu might say-- in their own respective individual fashions-- "Toil and persevere; thru acceptance and suffering, a mature harmony is achieved," Mizo or Kobayashi might say "The way the common worker is treated is a disgrace; suffering cultivates evil amongst the suffering, and maintaining hope and goodness in the face of suffering is not a good enough solution." At the end of Naruse or Ozu, we'd typically get a shot or implication of a solitary individual facing either bland repetition or lonesomeness (When a Woman Ascends The Stairs, Tokyo Story, Tokyo Twilight, Repast, and on and on and on)-- cue swelling music to increase the throat lump; the end. The implication is that most individuals have nowhere to go, and within that nowhere, must find Somewhere, or at least something, and endure. The ends of Mizoguchi & Kobayashi films, and their preceding texts, seem to be saying "stop with the stagnancy of this Quiet Endurance shit already furchrissakes. Engage with the levers of the real world and have a dialog." It seems to me Kobayaashi & Mizo are guys to watch when you wake up in the morning prior to Action, and Naruse & Ozu are well suited to the evening, upon reflection and coming to terms with what just happened.

And whereas the quieter two adapt an economy of means, the latter of the two drive their points home with the dazzling pictorial tours de force, a la Sternberg, the conceits of the silent era, avant garde touches, etc. The height of visual sophistication, in the most obvious use of the word.

Small stories with a quiet tone vs big stories with a more activistic tone. Somewhere in the middle falls Kurosawa, who at his best (Redbeard) was a little bit of both, and at his worst (the bandshell scene in One WOnderful Sunday, or-- for me-- most of Ikiru), embarasses himself by being too direct.

As for histrionics, Floating Clouds-- for all it's technical mastery-- is pretty high up there.

At this level of quality, however, I'm just glad we have the work of these guys-- all of them. Nothing's more refreshing after a spell ofg Ozu than a blast of Mizo, and vice versa.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 4:52 pm 
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Imai and Uchida are also cinematic rabble rousers -- but I believe in their passion a lot more than i believe in that of Mizoguchi and Kurosawa and (much moreso) Kobayashi. To complicate things, I almost invariably love Mizoguchi's visual sensibility (barring Taira Clan and Victory of Women and Great Sword B), and likewise Kurosawa -- even when I resist other elements of my less loved films by these two -- while I find Kobayashi's visual sensibility often annoying.. So I don't think one can meaningfully lump Mizoguchi and Kobayashi (at least for my purposes).

Not sure I like your use of "reductionist" regarding the methods of Ozu and Naruse. ;~{

Floating Clouds becomes more and more impressive to me (and less "melodramatic") with each re-visitation (n.b., this was a film I initially resisted a bit -- unlike Repast and sound of the Mountain and Lightning -- all of which provoked love at first sight).


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 5:45 pm 
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Well as for reductionist means I mean that with a small R, not in the 'ism' sense going back (if memory serves) to the Greeks(?). What I mean re the styles of these two men (Ozu, Naruse... moreso Ozu, but only slightly) is that their styles are far more invisible, have come to their respective points in the 50's & 60's after shaking off higher-volume stylistic conceits. It's almost as though one began writing thousand page novels, and years later finds ultimate expression in haiku. I certainly don't mean it in any backhanded sense, and both men had already proven that they could employ the more hi-volume cinematic mannerisms available to the filmmaker... but years of refinement brought them to a quieter and more subtle place.

As for the traits shared by Mizoguchi and Kobayashi, I think this is fairly obvious- both in terms of manipulation of the image, as well in personal disposition vis a vis the role of the artist in society.. fierce venting of the outrage they felt.

Lying just beyond this discussion is that of taste-- why Uchida or Imai registers within your fibre while Kobayashi or some of Mizo does not. Especially since you really don't give much of a clue as to the Why, so I don't want to come straight on and say "How could you not..?"

My only concern here is to address what I think is a misapplied term-- that of "sophistication".. i e Naruse being more "sophisticated" than Mizo. So far I really only see individual personalities more in tune with the sensibilities and tone of this or that filmmaker. Although nothing by Kobayashi is on my Top Ten All-Time list, and Ozu's Tokyo Story is, Kobayashi is still my favorite Japanese filmmaker. (Very similar to how Murnau is my favorite filmmaker of all, yet films by Epstein Kirsanoff and Dreyer top him in my All Time List)


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