Among the three film adaptations of The Tale of Genji that I have seen, this is by far the best in terms of direction, script, photography and production design. However, it is still merely a digest of the epic and fails to capture the emotional depth of the characters.
Exasperatingly short of being a masterpiece - its sins do weigh. First there's Hasegawa Kazuo, with his kabuki actor's face and gestures, who's miscast in any film where he isn't playing a kabuki actor. Then there's the script: Shindo's attempt to pack a massive classic novel into two hours is doomed to failure; too many ingredients spoil the soup. But it's one of the most beautiful black and white films ever made.
Ambitious adaptation by Yoshimura of roughly half of Murasaki Shikibu's 1000 year old epic. The sets, make-up and even the actors (except for the running sequences) are quite convincing. The problems, however, lie mostly in Shindo's adaption; like the brief action sequences added for sensation and simplifications of character relations to shorten the story and number of characters are a big miss.
My God is it beautiful. Visually this is certainly on a par with the finest Mizoguchi and Kobayashi, it may be even better. Hasegawa, Kyo, Kogure, Kato, Okochi, it's also got a fantastic cast who all give brilliant performances. The main problem is that Yoshimura is adapting from a source that is ovee 1000 pages long, and the film really feels like it's at least half too short for everything to develop fully. 4/5