Based on a centuries old tale with roots in real events, Chikamatsu Monogatari [A Tale From Chikamatsu, aka The Crucified Lovers] tells the hauntingly tragic story of a forbidden love affair between a merchant’s wife, Osan (Kyoko Kagawa), and her husband’s employee, Mohei (Kazuo Hasegawa), in an era when the punishment for adultery was crucifixion.
When a series of innocent events lead to the false accusation of an affair between Osan and Mohei, the accused pair are forced to flee an almost certain death sentence. On the run, the outlaw couple grow closer together, drawn inexorably towards the romantic crime of which they are accused.
In the hands of Mizoguchi, Chikamatsu Monogatari depicts two people caught up in a constricted world where true love and social obligation are at odds. His portrayal of the lovers’ dilemma lead famed director Akira Kurosawa to describe the film as “a great masterpiece that could only have been made by Mizoguchi.” —Eureka Entertainment
Kenji Mizoguchi entered the film world as a promoter of Western novelty in Japanese cinema and exited it as an acclaimed international director who exemplified Japan at its most traditional. After The Life of Oharu and Ugetsu won prizes in successive Venice Film Festivals in the early ‘50s, Mizoguchi became an icon for the nascent French New Wave. His mastery of mise-en-scène was lauded by Jacques Rivette, while Jean-Luc Godard praised his metaphysics and his stylistic elegance. Mizoguchi is still recognized as one of the 20th century’s greatest filmmakers. Born in Tokyo, in 1898, Mizoguchi was the middle child of a roofer/carpenter. His family’s financial situation went from modest to desperate when his erratic, dreamer father tried to make a killing by selling raincoats to the military during the Russo-Japanese war. Not having enough money for food, Mizoguchi’s older sister was put up for adoption at age 14. She was later sold to a geisha house. Mizoguchi himself… read more
Although it's not my favourite, I think this is Mizoguchi's most perfectly-formed, acted, and shot film. In other words, one of the ten to twenty greatest films ever made.
Although I don't think this film is quite on a par with other Mizoguchi masterpieces like Sansho The Bailiff and The Life Of Oharu, this is still exceptional filmmaking by anyone's standards. After a misunderstanding a couple falsely accused of adultery and aware that the punishment for such a crime is crucifixion, go on the run and subsequently fall in love. As you would expect from Mizo, the visuals are sumptuous..