Saturday, February 10, 2007

generally dating say the ones From Wheeling

Kenji Mizoguchi (溝口 健二 Mizoguchi Kenji; May 16, 1898 – August 24, 1956) was a Japanese film director and screenwriter.

Mizoguchi was born in Tokyo, the son of a carpenter. His early family circumstances were abject and they had to sell his older sister as a geisha, an event which profoundly affected Mizoguchi's outlook on life. Between this and his father's brutal treatment of his mother and sister, he maintained a fierce resistance against him throughout his life. He quit school at the age of 13 to work and to study graphic arts, and his first job was as an advertising designer in Kobe. He later entered the filming industry as an actor in Tokyo in 1920; three years later he would become a full-fledged director, at the Nikkatsu Corporation.

[edit] Film career

Mizoguchi's early works had been exploratory, mainly genre works like adaptations of Eugene O'Neill, Tolstoy and remakes of German Expressionism. In these early films Mizoguchi worked quickly, sometimes churning out a film in weeks. These would account for over seventy films from the 1920s and 1930s, the majority of which are now lost. Several of the late ones were keiko eiga or "tendency films", in which Mizoguchi first explored his socialist tendencies and moulded his famous signature preoccupations. Later in his life Mizoguchi maintained that his career as a serious director did not begin until Sisters of Gion and Naniwa Elegy, both dating from 1936.

In his middle films, Mizoguchi began to be hailed as a director of "new realism": social documents of a Japan that is making its transition from feudalism into modernism. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939) won a prize with the Education Department; like the two abovementioned films, it explores the deprecatory role of women in an unfairly male-centered society. During this time, Mizoguchi also developed his famous "one-scene-one-shot" approach to cinema. The meticulousness and authencity of his set designer Hiroshi Mizutani would contribute to Mizoguchi's frequent use of wide-angled lensing.
Kenji Mizoguchi travelling through Europe, 1953
Kenji Mizoguchi travelling through Europe, 1953

During the war, Mizoguchi was forced to make compromises for the military government as propaganda; the most famous is a retelling of the Samurai bushido classic The 47 Ronin (1941), an epic rekishi geki ("historical drama").

[edit] Post-war recognition

Mizoguchi was rediscovered in the West after the war particularly, by critics like Jacques Rivette. After a phase inspired by Japanese women's suffrage, which produced radical films like Victory of the Women (1946) and My Love Has Been Burning (1949), Mizoguchi took a turn to the jidai-geki — or period drama, re-made from stories from Japanese folklore or period history — together with long-time screenwriter and collaborator Yoshikata Yoda. It was to be his most celebrated series of works, including Ugetsu (1953), which won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and The Life of Oharu (1952), which won him international recognition and which he considered his best film. Sansho the Bailiff (1954) takes a premise from feudal Japan and reworks it as a Confucian morality tale. Of his nearly 100 films, only two — Tales of the Taira Clan (1955) and Princess Yang Kwei-Fei (1955) — were made in colour.

Mizoguchi died in Kyoto of leukemia at the age of 58, by which time he had become recognized as one of the three masters of Japanese cinema, together with Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa. In 1975, Kaneto Shindo filmed a documentary about Mizoguchi; Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Film Director.

[edit] Themes, aesthetics, trivia

Mizoguchi's films are well known for their championing of women. He has been called the first major feminist director, though modern audiences may find that his themes do not line up with the modern concept of feminism. Typically he revealed women's position in the Japanese society as downtrodden and oppressed, and showed that they may be capable of greater nobility between the sexes. He made many films on the plight of the geisha, but his protagonists could derive from anywhere: prostitutes, workers, street activists, housewives, and feudal princesses.
Screenwriter Yoshikata Yoda, Actress Kinuyo Tanaka, and Kenji Mizoguchi visit Paris, 1953
Screenwriter Yoshikata Yoda, Actress Kinuyo Tanaka, and Kenji Mizoguchi visit Paris, 1953

His films have an aesthetic that is reminiscent of Japanese art. He favours long takes and rich, painterly mise-en-scene, seldom with the Western-favoured device of the close-up; a typical scene can take a few minutes, and places emphasis on lighting and placement — much like the works of Josef von Sternberg. Its formalized beauty is balanced by its involvement with the audience through the subject-matter, which skillfully invites sympathy with the main characters; in his finest works the emotionalism can be extraordinarily moving.

Mizoguchi's obsession with rehearsals is infamous, and could become a nightmare for his actresses. His preference for a long take meant there was little room for errors: there are stories of him rehearsing one shot nearly a hundred times. Kinuyo Tanaka, Mizoguchi's regular actress, once recounted that Mizoguchi asked her to read a whole library in preparation of a role.

[edit] Selected filmography

1936 Sisters of the Gion (祇園の姉妹 Gion no Shimai)
1936 Naniwa Elegy aka Osaka Elegy (浪華悲歌 Naniwa hika or Naniwa erejī)
1939 The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (残菊物語 Zangiku monogatari)
1941 The 47 Ronin aka The Loyal 47 Ronin of the Genroku Era (元禄忠臣蔵 Genroku chushingura)
1946 Utamaro and His Five Women aka Five Women Around Utamaro (歌麿をめぐる五人の女 Utamaro o meguru gonin no onna)
1951 Miss Oyu (お遊さま Oyū-sama)
1952 The Life of Oharu (西鶴一代女 Saikaku ichidai onna)
1953 A Geisha aka Gion Music Festival (祇園囃子 Gion bayashi)
1953 Ugetsu aka Tales of the Pale and Silvery Moon After the Rain (雨月物語 Ugetsu monogatari)
1954 The Woman in the Rumor aka The Crucified Woman (噂の女 Uwasa no onna)
1954 Sansho the Bailiff (山椒大夫 Sanshō dayū)
1954 The Crucified Lovers aka A Story by Chikamatsu (近松物語 Chikamatsu monogatari)
1955 Tales of the Taira Clan aka Taira Clan Saga (新平家物語 Shin Heike monogatari)
1955 Princess Yang Kwei-Fei aka The Empress Yang Kuei-Fei (楊貴妃 Yōkihi)
1956 Street of Shame (赤線地帯 Akasen chitai)


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