films seen
average score
Alive and kicking


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.

Sisters of the Gion

Gion no Shimai
1936 / 69m - Japan
Sisters of the Gion poster

Mizoguchi is one of the most lauded classic Japanese directors, but he hasn't managed to wow me yet. Sisters of the Gion isn't changing any of that. It's a typical '30s flick, characterized by endless dialogues and static cinematography, exactly the opposite of what I want in a good film.

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Furusawa is a banker who went bankrupt. He lost his possession, his wife left him and he ended up in the Gion district. He tries to hook up with Umekichi, a geisha who takes pity on the man, but Omocha, Umekichi's sister, isn't too pleased with his advances. She does everything in her power to keep the two apart.

The performances aren't great, the cinematography is bland and uninviting and the conversations overpower the drama, which is pretty basic to begin with. It's short for sure, but with hardly anything of interest present that's only a meager comfort. My struggle with Mizoguchi continues.

A Story from Chikamatsu

Chikamatsu Monogatari
1954 / 102m - Japan
Drama, Romance
A Story from Chikamatsu poster

Kenji Mizoguchi is by far one of the most disappointing (classic) Japanese directors for me. I find his film tedious and theatrical, and A Story of Chikamatsu is the worst I've seen so far. I never cared for any of the characters, let alone their romantic and dramatic woes. As for the styling, it's simply disastrous.

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Ishun owns a successful printing company, but that doesn't mean he leads a comfortable life. He is wary and believes his second in command is having an affair with his wife. In fear that others will believe these accusations, they both flee, but that only makes the situation worse.

Stark camerawork, bland decors, and a mix of restrained emotions and theatrical performances make this a difficult film to appreciate. Though the film isn't too long, the lack of any true intrigue and the unappealing stylistic choices make this a downright chore to sit through. I'm clearly not a Mizoguchi fan.