films seen
average score
Alive and kicking
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Street of Shame

Akasen Chitai
1956 / 87m - Japan
Street of Shame poster

Sansho the Bailiff

Sansho Dayu
1954 / 124m - Japan
Sansho the Bailiff poster

Me and Kenji Mizoguchi don't seem to be getting along. Sansho the Bailiff is a loud, unsubtle and overly dramatic tale of folklore. The appeal of these films is totally beyond me, as they are simplistic, badly acted and terribly long-winded. Somewhat of a must see if you like critically acclaimed films, but that doesn't mean it's any good.


Ugetsu Monogatari
1953 / 96m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy, War
Ugetsu poster

The Life of Oharu

Saikaku Ichidai Onna
1952 / 133m - Japan
The Life of Oharu poster

I'm not a fan of Mizoguchi's samurai dramas. He's one of my least favorite classic Japanese directors so far, even trailing the likes of Kurosawa. The Life of Ohara is just another confirmation that his film don't really work for me, the excessive runtimes only add insult to injury.

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Oharu is a 17th century woman, who ends up a prostitute. The film is a reflection on her life, from her childhood, to the various men she dated, the stigmas that were put upon her love and the way she was treated once her companions ditched her for someone else. A life full of precious moments, but also hardship.

Mizoguchi is very narrative-focused. The cinematography is plain, the endless dialogues are tiring, the drama is pretty bland and predictable. And yet, he just wades through it as if it is one of the most profound explorations of mankind. At more than two hours long, this was pretty bad.

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum

Zangiku Monogatari
1939 / 148m - Japan
Drama, Romance
The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum poster

Though I can say that I'm a pretty devoted fan of Japanese cinema, I haven't seen too many pre-40s films yet. This early Mizoguchi didn't convince me I'm missing out on a lot I'm afraid. It turned out to be an extremely static and long-winded narrative that doesn't make great use of the medium.

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Kikonosuke is the son of a famous stage actor. He becomes an actor himself and isn't unsuccessful, but then he discovers that he is only praised because of his father. Behind his back, people are making fun of him. He finds comfort with the woman taking care of his nephew, and decides to move away from Tokyo to start a new life.

Very static camerawork, uninviting decors and endless conversations make this film a pretty big drag. The theater scenes are a bit livelier, but not enough to offset the rest of the film. And at 150 minutes, it's also pretty long, which only made the experience worse. Not good.