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New Mizoguchi box set

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    Those in DVD Region 2 (Europe, Middle East, etc.) and into Kenji Mizoguchi seem to have a real treat coming for them in the form of a new Masters of Cinema box set that includes no less than 8 of Mizoguchi’s films.

    The “Late Mizoguchi” box set contains many of the directors final films:

    – Miss Oyu (1951)

    – Ugetsu (1953)

    – Gion-bayashi / A Geisha (1953)

    – Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

    – The Woman in the Rumour (1954)

    – The Crucified Lovers (1954)

    – Yokichi / Princess Yang Kwei-Fei (1955)

    – Street of Shame (1956)

    It basically looks like Eureka have repackaged four of their double releases into one box set. With the current price of £35.99, that’s not bad at all. The release date is January 24.



    Thats a great price for those films (unfortunately, I have all of them already, sold at greatly inflated prices!)

    One smart thing Masters of Cinema did was ‘pairing’ Mizoguchi’s masterpieces with his lesser films. The thing about Mizoguchi compared to AK or Ozu is that he never seems to have been trusted by his studio, so he was forced to do far more studio work – he never seemed particularly interested in making the best of a bad thing. So there is far more variability in the quality of his films between his pet projects and those he did to pay off his geisha bills. Yokichi, for example, is a very dull film. He was also subject to much more studio interference than other top directors it seems. Miss Oyu is lovely at times, but suffers from the gross miscasting of Kinoyu Tanaka as the lead character. She was a great actress but couldn’t do the ‘noble Japanese lady’ role as well as, say, Setsuko Hara.

    I’m not as big a fan of his historic films as others are. They are magnificent at times visually, but I don’t think they ‘add up’ to much. Sansho the Bailiff pretty much batters you over the head with its ‘message’ that people need to have more empathy for each other. I’m always astonished at how people accuse AK of didacticism but never Mizoguchi – the latter in my opinion was much worse, and could be much more facile in his political beliefs. He was also much more ready to opt for a sort of empty oriental mysticism that looks pretty (and some critics mistook for depth) over any real engagement with character or politics.

    Street of Shame is my favourite of all those films – a very radical and gripping drama with a stunning ending. For anyone who hasn’t seen Mizoguchi films, the boxed set is worth it for that film alone.

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