Eclipse Series 13: Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
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mikeohhh
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#26 Post by mikeohhh » Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:38 am

Oh wow oh wow oh wow! I've been holding out on Street of Shame for a while. I kinda wish it was a full Criterion, being one of my favorite Mizoguchis and all, but this is more than welcome. I had assumed a Pre-War Mizoguchi set would be the Eclipse theme with Osaka, Gion and Chrysanthemum, but this looks fantastic. Also, as mentioned above, this sorta confirms Life of Oharu and Story of the Last Chrysanthemum as full Criterions. That's good news considering the subpar transfer on the AE DVD of the former and, as for the latter, it was a film I had marked off for Eclipse the moment I read the mission statement for the new line knowing prints of it were always of poor quality. I missed The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum on its theatrical run as part of Janus' Mizo retro. How did it look? Esp. compared to Osaka Elegy and Sisters of the Gion.

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Finch
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#27 Post by Finch » Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:37 am

Not the first time that an Eclipse release excites me more than the main line's annoucements: I've never seen Mizo's pre-war films so this set is a must-buy for these alone - most psyched about finally seeing Osaka Elegy and Sisters of the Gion. Agree that Life of Oharu seems the most likely contender for a CC release (actually a bit surprised that they didn't save Street of Shame for the main line and inluded another title in its stead in the Eclipse set).

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Awesome Welles
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#28 Post by Awesome Welles » Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:05 am

Mr Finch wrote:actually a bit surprised that they didn't save Street of Shame for the main line and inluded another title in its stead in the Eclipse set
I guess they're hoping those who bought the MoCs will double dip here rather than on a main line release. And they'd be right! I am a bit disappointed this wasn't a dedicated 30s box but beggars can't be choosers!

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MichaelB
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#29 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:50 am

mikeohhh wrote:I've been holding out on Street of Shame for a while. I kinda wish it was a full Criterion, being one of my favorite Mizoguchis and all
If you want a "full Criterion" version, buy the MoC - it's got an exhaustive Tony Rayns commentary, a jam-packed booklet and a supporting feature.

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Michael Kerpan
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#30 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:26 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Mizoguchi

Exploitation film

Most delirious visuals:

sounds like a favorite may be on deck, here.
Take a look at some of the screen shots from Women of the Night above, particularly this and this.

I felt much more charitable towards this film (despite my still deep reservations in terms of content) after seeing the lovely French DVD version. A film this great looking just cannot be denied, (It was shot by the same cinematographer as did Page of Madness).

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HerrSchreck
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#31 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Jul 16, 2008 1:24 pm

The caps are wonderful in the atmopshere they capture/create. When a truly great director takes on a work with portrayal of a world of "seediness" and this feeling is not only preserved but brought to you in full helping-- with excellence-- it's a true delight. Most times "great directors" come to unseemly material, hire great actors or "stars", who bring their star persona to the vehicle and drain the material of its darkness.. and you no longer sense the grim end of the road nature of the material. Look at a film like Gangs of New York.. Cameron Diaz & DiCaprio et al look like Diaz & DiCaprio, not dirty, rough, smelly hardbitten souls clawing their way thru the streets. (Walsh's Regeneration delivers those goods by hiring real Bowery denizens of 1915 to bring that one home with total authenticity.. smashed faces, slight malformation from parental alcoholism & malnutrition etc).

Thus true "low stories" became the domain of the B film with no money to hire stars/great directors. The fact that someone like Mizo can maintain the spirit of the low strata (as did Kurosawa in Lower Depths) while maintaining a profoundly affecting (and brilliant) mise en scne-- its a real treat.

And if the film is totally drained of all sense of Mizo's usual meditative, reflective quality of otherworldliness, philosophical clarity and aching portrayals of mono no aware... and reads like a Mizo version of The Exploitation Film... it sounds like an utterly unique treat!

Wittsdream
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#32 Post by Wittsdream » Wed Jul 16, 2008 4:55 pm

In general, I like the set (containing 3 films new to English-friendly DVD) and beautiful cover art to boot.

Still, there are at least 3 titles not available (though presumably on their way either through Criterion/BFI/MoC) that are integral to Mizoguchi's art: Story of the Last Chrysanthemum, Utamaro and His Five Women and My Love Has Been Burning.

Odd though, to group Street of Shame (his final film) with two early sound films, regardless of theme. Heck, you can make the argument that 90% of Mizoguchi's output could be aptly named Mizoguchi's Fallen Women!

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Michael Kerpan
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#33 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:09 pm

Street of Shame was shot in (gorgeous) black and white. There are still _lots_ of "essential" Mizoguchi films not yet available (readily) with English subtitles (not just three). ;~}

Wittsdream
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#34 Post by Wittsdream » Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:06 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:Street of Shame was shot in (gorgeous) black and white. There are still _lots_ of "essential" Mizoguchi films not yet available (readily) with English subtitles (not just three). ;~}
True Michael, there are a bevy of Mizo films that are not available (of the surviving films) in the English-friendly world.

The three I mentioned are my favorites of his that have yet to make it onto DVD (hence I used the phrase "at least 3 titles").

"Women of the Night" was available as part of a massive Mizoguchi laserdisc box set from Japan back in the early 1990's, and "Utamaro" was available in a nice presentation on VHS from New Yorker, but I have not seen a serviceable home video edition of "Last Chrystanthemum" yet (obviously, the early films are suffering from deterioration more than his later films).

Either way, the salad days are upon cineastes the world over, well......as long as your pocket books can keep up with all of the new releases :) !

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Jean-Luc Garbo
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#35 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:31 pm

This set sounds quite exciting. However, I've only seen his movie Sansho. Do I need to be a Mizoguchi buff to get much from these films?

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HelenLawson
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#36 Post by HelenLawson » Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:51 pm

This set will help immensely in fleshing out that "Movies 'bout Hoez" shelf I was assembling. I can smell that gift certificate now.

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Michael Kerpan
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#37 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:16 pm

Jean-Luc Garbo wrote:This set sounds quite exciting. However, I've only seen his movie Sansho. Do I need to be a Mizoguchi buff to get much from these films?
I think not. You may not like all of them equally -- but I think they are pretty accessible.

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blindside8zao
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#38 Post by blindside8zao » Wed Jul 16, 2008 9:13 pm

I hope they won't be afraid to release a flood of Mizoguchi all at once like the Ozu just because everyone bitched last time. There's nothing I'd be more interested in exploring.

jojo
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#39 Post by jojo » Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:22 pm

blindside8zao wrote:I hope they won't be afraid to release a flood of Mizoguchi all at once like the Ozu just because everyone bitched last time. There's nothing I'd be more interested in exploring.
It doesn't matter if people bitch online, ultimately it will probably have to do with sales. Ozu has proven to be quite profitable for Criterion on DVD (or so I've understood) hence the deluge of titles recently. Not that I'm saying Criterion would stop releasing someone's stuff just because it sells poorly (after all, that would not be in keeping with their philosophy), but they aren't as enthusiastic about dumping someone's stuff all on us if it isn't as profitable.

Jack Phillips
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#40 Post by Jack Phillips » Fri Jul 18, 2008 9:09 pm

davidhare wrote:Sisters plays very differently with the "modern" sister essentially taking control of the destinies of both her and her "acquiescent" sibling. In the process, and most unusually at this point in Mizo's work the men are almost universally played off as fools. And while the tone is a bit like a Mervyn Leroy Warner Girl on the Make picture, Mizo shades it with much darker elements.
For what it's worth (which isn't much) my take is a bit different. The film is didactic on a simple theme: women must depend on men but men are undependable. The scheming sister (Yamada) is contrasted with the idealistic sister; both pursue male patronage according to their philosophies of life and both come to grief. The diatribe against geisha, delivered by Yamada in a fit of self-loathing at the end, is a bit much. Not Mizo's worst, not his best, certainly worth seeing.

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david hare
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#41 Post by david hare » Fri Jul 18, 2008 9:27 pm

Yes, you're quite right about that. But the men also come to grief of course. And Yamada's determination to break the chains and manipulate the men around her sister like puppets is extremely sympathetic to me.

In any case it is certainly a fascinating variation on the attempts of Yamada's Young Daughter/Employee character in Naniwa Eriji/Osaka Elegy to break out against her boss and her family.

Benshi2
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Osaka Elegy

#42 Post by Benshi2 » Sat Jul 19, 2008 8:15 pm

I'm most interested in Osaka Elegy. A few years ago I saw it once at a lecture given by Donald Richie. (You cineastes may know Richie from his many books about Japanese cinema.) The subtitles were quite difficult to read due to the size of the screen and the lack of contrast in the print but I could follow the story outline without much difficulty. Almost all of the movies by Mizoguchi I've seen(including the 'ghost' story, Ugetsu) have been about the status of women in Japanese society, and, by extension, the world.

I've seen some of the others, including Akasen Chitai (Street of Shame) but without English subtitles, on the Nihon Eiga Senmon Channel through SkyPerfect TV. (Anyone else out there living in Japan?) You may ask why would anyone living in Japan be interested in U.S. DVD editions of Japanese movies? For the most part, Japanese movies available locally on DVD and/or for rental have no English subtitles.

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jon
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#43 Post by jon » Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:00 pm


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Tommaso
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#44 Post by Tommaso » Wed Oct 08, 2008 5:50 am

These caps more or less look like expected. I'm pretty sure that the blurryness in the first three films is completely due to the materials; and while Gary complains that these discs are not double-layered, I strongly doubt that the presentation would have much improved if they were, considering that the films are all rather short and there's not much of a difference between the Eclipse "Akasen" and the MoC disc. Looks like a fine package, in any case.

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movielocke
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#45 Post by movielocke » Fri Oct 10, 2008 4:30 am

I'm just relieved that the mizoguchi's aren't pictureboxed! I almost canceled Autumn Afternoon when I found out it was, funny that the criterion ozu gets the lower quality transfer compared to the eclipse releases. :(

Senya
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#46 Post by Senya » Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:19 pm

The Sisters of the Gion is better here as compared with the Toho LD edition.

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cdnchris
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#47 Post by cdnchris » Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:43 am


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foggy eyes
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#48 Post by foggy eyes » Mon Oct 13, 2008 6:28 am

Rather down on this, Chris, but thanks for the caps - it looks more than good enough to my eyes. I can't help thinking that PQ is secondary when it comes to stuff like 1930s Mizo - it's amazing that Criterion have made the effort to release these films with subtitles at all, and surely we'd be wise to encourage them instead of nitpicking about 'damage' and 'lack of extras'.

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Tommaso
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#49 Post by Tommaso » Mon Oct 13, 2008 6:53 am

I completely agree. There's been a subbed bootleg of "Osaka Elegy" floating around for some time which to me looked excellent for a Japanese film of that age, but on the other hand surely looks as fuzzy as these Eclipse caps. I guess if you love Japanese films of that vintage you have to allow that these films simply do not look any better anymore. And the lack of real blacks is completely normal for them, too. That's why many people here, me included, have such reservations against some of the full CC releases of older Japanese films. The blackness boosting on "Drunken Angel" or "Early Summer", for instance, is surely wrong and almost distracts from the experience. Of course we all have to see these films in motion to say whether these Mizos are indeed perhaps worse than what was expected anyway. But from the caps, they don't look worse to me than, say, the MoC "Humanity and Paper Balloons", and that one never has garnered any strong criticism regarding picture quality.

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#50 Post by cdnchris » Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:58 pm

I wasn't expecting pristine and had an idea as to what to expect, but I was, admittedly, thrown off by how blurry and fuzzy the image was for three of the films. (Street of Shame looks fine on the other hand.) I think that's the aspect of it that disappointed me the most.

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