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Kenji Mizoguchi Double Feature: Los Angeles Premiere of 4K Restoration! UGETSU (UGETSU MONOGATARI), 1953, Janus Films, 94 min. Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi. An ambitious potter (Masayuki Mori) and his devoted spouse (Kinuyo Tanaka) as well as a kindred couple (Eitaro Ozawa, Mitsuko Mito) are torn apart by the civil-war chaos of 16th-century Japan. Both men realize their material dreams but at a tragic cost to their respective mates. In particular, Mori’s shallow success is reflected in his delirious romance with a ghostly noblewoman (Machiko Kyo), an affair that will drive him to the brink of madness. One of the most poignant evocations of the illusory nature of worldly desires and missed opportunities and one of the most haunting depictions of the supernatural ever committed to celluloid. Winner of the 1953 Venice Film Festival Silver Lion Award. “If poetry is manifest in each second, each shot filmed by Mizoguchi, it is because…it is the instinctive reflection of the filmmaker’s creative nobility. … The director of UGETSU MONOGATARI can describe an adventure which is at the same time a cosmogony.” – Jean-Luc Godard. In Japanese with English subtitles.
THE LIFE OF OHARU (SAIKAKU ICHIDAI ONNA) 1952, Janus Films, 137 min. Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi. Based on one of Japan’s first novels, the 17th-century The Woman Who Loved Love by Saikaku Ihara. Kinuyo Tanaka is Oharu, a samurai’s daughter expelled from her station as a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial Palace for falling in love with a man below her rank. Driven into exile along with her parents, she soon resorts to being a kept woman, then finally a common prostitute. Mizoguchi expertly walks a tightrope, delivering an unflinching examination of a sensitive woman’s emotional brutalization without manipulative sentimentality. Another masterwork. With Ichiro Sugai, Toshiro Mifune. In Japanese with English subtitles.