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DIRECTORS ROUND MIZOGUCHI

by Kenji
DIRECTORS ROUND MIZOGUCHI by Kenji
Click on Read More and the green. Above is an image from Godard’s film Made in U.S.A, with on the left the character named Mizoguchi. Mizoguchi Kenji This is a list of directors, with some representative films, who’ve either influenced or been admired by Mizoguchi, or else been his admirers, influenced by him in turn. And in the middle, the films by Mizoguchi himself that are on this site. Included here is An Osaka Story, starring beloved Kagawa Kyoko, for which Mizoguchi started on a script and intended to direct before he died. The great man respected Ozu, Ford and Wyler (a fellow competitor at Venice, master of deep focus), thought… Read more

Click on Read More and the green. Above is an image from Godard’s film Made in U.S.A, with on the left the character named Mizoguchi.

Mizoguchi Kenji

This is a list of directors, with some representative films, who’ve either influenced or been admired by Mizoguchi, or else been his admirers, influenced by him in turn. And in the middle, the films by Mizoguchi himself that are on this site. Included here is An Osaka Story, starring beloved Kagawa Kyoko, for which Mizoguchi started on a script and intended to direct before he died.

The great man respected Ozu, Ford and Wyler (a fellow competitor at Venice, master of deep focus), thought Shimizu a genius, was influenced by Sternberg (whom he met in Japan quite early in his career) and L’Herbier. As Arsaib has reminded me below, Mizo was also impressed by and mindful of Rossellini’s Rome Open City and neo-realism when making Women of the Night (1948), Oh, and there’s something of Murnau’s Sunrise in Miss Oyu. Mizoguchi has in common with Max Ophuls fluid camerawork, melodrama, a focus on women, and often exquisite beauty and poignancy.

The success of Kurosawa’s Rashomon at Venice in 51 spurred Mizoguchi to a run of great late masterpieces, and Kurosawa rated him as Japan’s finest, especially liked Chikamatsu Monogatari.

Mizoguchi was championed by the critics turned director at Cahiers du Cinéma in the 50s (and also Positif), e.g Godard and Rivette, though it may be his influence on them is not as apparent as on some others. Angelopoulos has acknowledged Mizo and Welles are his two main influences, Mizo for his sense of off-screen space, and a scene late in Ugetsu in particular came to my mind watching The Travelling Players and Ulysses’ Gaze. Together with Polish director Andrzej Wajda, in the early 1990s Terrence Malick set out to stage a theatre version of Sansho the Bailiff, whose influence can be seen in The Thin Red Line and The New World, as well as, albeit briefly, in Bertolucci’s 1900. Bertolucci placed Sansho second in his list for Sight and Sound.

The Japanese director Shindo, an assistant to Mizo, revered him and directed a documentary on Mizo in the 70s. Tarkovsky likened him to a soaring soul, and proved himself a long take master too. Im Kwon-taek from South Korea is clearly influenced by Mizo, e.g Sopyonje and Chunhyang, and film expert David Bordwell has likened Hou Hsiao-Hsien to Mizo in his staging and long takes (considering his work, even if inadvertently, as similar to Mizo as it is to Ozu). I also noted the lack of close ups in the beautiful (and again quite Ozu-esque) Maborosi by Koreeda; a trait of Mizo’s especially in the 30’s (eg the excellent Straits of Love and Hate). Jarmusch and the Kaurismakis are also professed admirers (Mika Kaurismaki picked Ugetsu for Sight and Sound) but Bresson would seem a much more obvious influence on Aki. Two masters from the Iberian peninsula, Erice (with a tribute here ) and Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira were also admirers, while Jean-Marie Straub has said what he was trying to achieve in cinema was a combination of Ford and Mizoguchi.

In the 2012 Sight & Sound poll, Martin Scorsese picked Ugestu Monogatari in his top 10 (as did Oliveira), while Carlos Reygadas chose Sansho the Bailiff. I have it on good authority that the Indonesian-based Welsh director Gareth Evans is a big fan.

The Indian director Ritwik Ghatak’s Cloud-Capped Star strikes me as a very Mizoguchian film, with its beauty and self-sacrificing heroine (helping her brother’s artistic career, similarly to Story of the Late Chrysanthemums), and even its expressionist moments reminded me of a storm scene in Lady of Musashino, though that is more likely coincidental.

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Regular screenwriter Yoda Yoshikata and actress Tanaka Kinuyo with Mizoguchi, Paris, 1953

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Terrence Malick and Sansho the Bailiff

Terrrence Malick wrote a stage play version of Sansho the Bailiff, directed at workshop stage by Andrjej Wajda in the early 90s, that was intended for Broadway

here from a Malick site:

“The Thin Red Line has much in common with Terrence Malick’s screenplay Sansho the Bailiff based on the film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Thematically and visually, many scenes were either derived or inspired by the film.

There are two prominent voiceovers used in The Thin Red Line that do not appear in the film Sansho the Bailiff, but in Malick’s script.

One is spoken by the father who is exiled as a governor for favoring his people that compris emostly of peasants. His wife is taken away to an island to work in a brothel and his two children are sold into slavery working under the wickedness of Sansho.

The Father is speaking to the peasants shortly before being exiled:

“I never knew this hour might strike, this contented life be ended. Those earthly hopes are gone that once were wings for me! Are you thoughtful and kind? Are you righteous? Does your confidence lie in this? Are you loved by all? So was I! Do you trust in virtue? Do you imagine your sufferings will be lighter because you praised her name? So did I! You who thrive, whose friends hold you up! For whom life holds no dark sword!”
Malick used the highlighted lines, in part, as the voice of the dead Japanese soldier (actually it was actor Elias Koteas who reads the lines).

One other voice over was lifted from the Sansho the Bailiff screenplay. This time the original line was spoken by the son of the governor, Zushio, who has escaped the slave camp and was reinstated as governor by a sympathetic party who recognizes the young man’s noble lineage. The son recognizes what his family had sacrificed:

“The roads multiply ‑‑ there are so many ways I could go wrong. They part not once but ‑‑ endlessly! The worst of it is, I have others who are counting on me. My mother and father! My sister! I’ve come where I can’t go away, or last for long. Sorrow comes over me, greater than any I knew before, in Sansho’s camp. I would be ashamed for them to know what I’ve come to ‑‑ what a ruin! ‑‑ how all their sacrifice, their care, is poured out like water in the sand!” "

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When i saw an ad for The New World before it came out i immediately thought of the scene of Anju’s ripples, the way Pocahontas stands in the water, and only then i remembered Malick’s love for the film

The New World

Sansho the Bailiff

The beauty of nature in Mizoguchi’s masterpiece, alongside Malick’s

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“I portray what should not be possible as it if should be possible, but Ozu portrays what should be possible as if it were possible, and that is much more difficult” (Mizoguchi)

“People like me and Ozu get films made by hard work, but Shimizu is a genius.” (Mizoguchi)

“No praise is too high for him” (Orson Welles)

“Now that Mizoguchi is gone, there are very few directors who can see the past clearly and realistically” (Kurosawa Akira)

“You can compare only what is comparable and that which aims high enough. Mizoguchi, alone, imposes a feeling of a unique world and language, is answerable only to himself…” (Jacques Rivette)

“The greatest of Japanese filmmakers. Or, quite simply, one of the greatest of filmmakers.” (Jean-Luc Godard)

“Such an artist can convey the lines of the poetic design of being. He is capable of going beyond the limitations of coherent logic, and conveying the deep complexity and truth of the impalpable connections and hidden phenomena of life” (Tarkovsky)

“I wanted to work in very anonymous apartments to show the situation of exile, the feeling of being nowhere. I used the game of space that I took from the Japanese director Mizoguchi. That’s the kind of space I wanted to use, like Japanese houses where a lot of doors that were open and you never know who was in the other room or how many people live there. Maybe 100, maybe ten people, maybe it’s empty.” (Raúl Ruiz, on Dialogues of Exiles)

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This list has a companion- Mizoguchi Revered

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