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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- Spring '13