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Movie Poster of the Week: Mizoguchi’s “Mountain Pass of Love and Hate”

A rare poster for a missing Mizoguchi, and some other of his posters of the 1920s and 30s.

Not long after I published my piece on the poster for Ozu’s Lady and the Beard a couple of weeks ago, I got a message from Nick Wrigley alerting me to this beautiful poster for a 1934 Mizoguchi film, The Mountain Pass of Love and Hate. Nick, as his twitter bio states, was the “founder and overseer of The Masters of Cinema Series” from 2004–2012 and is “now doing other things.” One of those things would seem to be digitizing some glorious ephemera of early Japanese cinema. On his Tumblr feed he recently posted 214 rarely seen photos of Ozu from a Japanese book on the director. He’s looking for translations to the captions so if I have any Japanese readers please take a look and help out if you can.

Likewise, it turned out that the Mizoguchi poster was also from a Japanese annual devoted to the director and Nick kindly scanned a number of other early Mizoguchi posters from the book for me. As with Ozu, early Mizoguchi posters are incredibly rare, as indeed are his early films. Mizoguchi made some 52 films in the first 12 years from 1923 to 1934 prior to The Mountain Pass of Love and Hate, and only three, and a fragment of one other, have survived. Mountain Pass itself is a lost film, another example, like Ozu’s Young Miss, of a poster surviving where the film hasn’t.

Though the poster for Mountain Pass, featuring the great Isuzu Yamada (who died just last year at the age of 95), is gorgeous, it is conventionally realistic compared to Takashi Kohno’s posters for Ozu. The poster below for the earlier Metropolitan Symphony (1929, also lost) is something else though: a superb three-color montage of stylized lettering and body parts.

This next poster is for Sisters of the Gion, one of Mizoguchi’s best known 1930s films, which again co-stars Isuzu Yamada:

And finally a poster for the 1937 film The Straits of Love and Hate, a film that is hard to find but which is apparently East Asian film expert Tony Rayns’ favorite film of all time. Notably all four of these posters are in completely different styles and certainly from four different artists.

One additional piece from the period is what looks like a pamphlet for the 1929 film Tokyo March (a film of which only 20 minutes has survived).  

If anyone knows of any other Mizoguchi posters from the 1920s and early 30s, I’d love to see them. Many thanks again to Nick for providing these.

The poster should essentialize the power dynamics of the film. Left side orientation of the center(s) of influence cast conflict between the dominate and the subordinate object on the right side because the dominant object wants to be at center or lower right quadrant to be expressing the most dominance. Sisters of the Gion: Although slightly smaller, one sister is more centered and derives power by way of her connection to another object. Umekichi, I guess, is the sister with her hand to the phallic symbol – she trusted in men. The Mountain Pass of Love and Hate: The two women depicted are supposed to be different or is it the same woman at a different time? If the latter, the poster seems to suggest a story of ‘becoming’ over time. The Straits of Love and Hate: Be interesting to know what Tony Rayns thinks of this poster, since he likes the film….poster seems kinda blunt.
All posters looks classic indeed. I wish I could read Japanese characters so that I can fully understand what was written but unfortunately, I can’t. Nevertheless, title itself is intriguing two opposite emotions was expected to see on that movies.
Great posters. Another beautiful poster for Mizoguchi’s Osaka Elegy closed on Yahoo Japan’s auction site this past week:

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