ASIA212Varley

But by about 1947 the scap imposed restrictions on

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Unformatted text preview: anters with and flatters her patrons but does not get seriously involved with them. The contemporary Japanese cinema is of such rich diversity that discussion of the films of a few directors, no matter how important they may be, obviously cannot cover the subject adequately. But, along with Ozu and Kurosawa, the greatest master of film has been Mizoguchi Kenji (1898–1956), director of the incomparably beautiful Ugetsu (Ugetsu Monogatari, 1953).23 Viewed from different perspectives, Mizoguchi can be seen as the most romantically traditional of Japanese directors and also as an artist concerned with modern social issues. His traditional side was essentially aesthetic and was probably most fully revealed in his ability to create and sustain atmosphere, particularly in films of the past or some mythical age long ago, such as Ugetsu, the tale of a craftsman in the medieval age of civil wars who journeys to a city to sell his pottery and is drawn into an affair by a lovely patroness (fig. 69). In this atmospherically most perfect of films, much of the sense of wonder derives from our uncertainty about what is real and unreal. The craftsman discovers that his affair with the lovely patroness is part of an enchanted spell under which he has fallen; yet when he seeks to return home to his wife, he finds that she also no longer exists but has been dead for many years. Mizoguchi’s modern side is to be found mainly in his treatment of women, including the themes of the importance of their love to men and the fearful way in which they were victimized in traditional, feudal Japan. The latter theme is starkly drawn in Sansho the Bailiff (Sanshò Dayû, 1954), an overpoweringly tragic story of the wife, son, and daughter of a provincial official in ancient times who are kidnapped by outlaws and sold into slavery, the son and daughter to one group and the wife to another. Upon growing to manhood the son escapes, thanks to his sister, who sacrifices her life to delay his pursuers. The son soon becomes an important official himself, but he abandons his position in order to search for his mother. When he finally finds her, she is a blind old woman who has been used over...
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