Set many centuries ago, Yôkihi [Imperial Concubine Yang, aka Yang Kwei Fei] recounts the Chinese legend referred to in its title.
In eighth-century T’ang China, widowed Emperor Hsüan-tsung (Masayuki Mori) reigns alone, devoting his life to the composition of music. When he meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman (Machiko Kyo), who will become his imperial concubine, a tale of political intrigue and rival dynasties is set in motion, with ultimately tragic consequences.
Sumptuously filmed in vibrant colour, Yôkihi is the most ancient of Mizoguchi’s costume dramas, yet its central themes of passion, sorrow, and the conflict between love and power remain timeless — it was also nominated for the Golden Lion at Venice. –Masters of Cinema
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
A travesty of history as much as any Hollywood film, but Mizoguchi's magnificent visual sense is still very much in effect; most of all in that gorgeous tracking shot following Yang Kwei-Fei's discarded clothes and jewellery at the end of the film. And you think: "This is the bastard on a bad day..."
"In a certain reign someone of no very great rank, among all of his Majesty's Consorts and Intimates, enjoyed exceptional favor. Those others who had always assumed that pride of place was properly theirs despised her as a dreadful woman...From this sad spectacle the senior nobles and privy gentlemen could only avert their eyes. Such things had led to disorder and ruin even in China..."- Tale of Genji