Friday, April 06, 2007


This is really the second part of yesterday's post* about movies. Yesterday and the day before I saw two films by the master director Kenji Mizoguchi. You might remember that I've mentioned Mizoguchi before (here and here). Yesterday, after watching High Noon,* I saw his sedate contemplation of art and the floating world in Utamaro and His Five Women (1946).* Utamaro is an eighteenth-century artist and printmaker living the life of a commoner in Edo's pleasure district. The five women of the title are, at one time or another, his models: prostitutes, tea waitresses, and servants to the shogunate. As he becomes entwined in their lives and interrelations, they become his environment. Utamaro the artist is an observer, like us, watching the melodramatic ways of the women he draws. His is also a voice of reason, advising secondary characters toward greater restraint or moderation. At least, right up until some offense to the shogunate causes him to be handcuffed for fifty days. Thus rendered helpless to draw, his influence also weakens, and his world spins toward tragedy. Tuesday night I saw Mizoguchi's supernatural masterpiece Ugetsu (1953).* In a time of civil war between competing warlords, roving armies are plaguing the sixteenth-century countryside: inducting the able-bodied, commandeering provisions. One potter sees a profit to be made in this chaos. Accompanied by a brother dreaming of battlefield glory, he leaves his wife behind to sally forth into opportunity. Instead, each member of the family meets with either earthly or altogether allegorical tragedy: the abandoned women are brutalized and the men discover the illusionary nature of dreaming big. Fanciful notions of success might be just that: only after losing everything can these ghosts be dispelled. Ugetsu is a remarkably beautiful period portrait, less stately and measured that some of Mizoguchi's films. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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