For this Boxset, Eureka has scooped up all four of its recent Mizoguchi doubles into one handsome eight-disc package.
Not familiar with the work of the man often hailed as the greatest of all Japanese filmmakers? Then this is the perfect place to start.
Kenji Mizoguchi died in 1956, aged only 58. But during the final years of his life, the international success of The Life Of Oharu (1952 – not in this set, alas) gave him the clout to make almost anything he wanted. All the films in this set date from those last glorious years.
The finest are three costume dramas. Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) interweaves the tales of two peasants in the strife-torn 16th century who set out to seek their fortunes at the nearest town; fate has other ideas for them.
Sanshô Dayû (1954), set in the feudal 11th century, traces the life of an aristocratic woman and her two children after her husband is exiled.
And in Chikamatsu Monogatari (1954), two lovers who flout the strict social code of the period pay a terrible price. As ever, the cool grace of Mizoguchi’s style enhances the emotional intensity of his stories.
Three modern-day dramas (Gion Bayashi, 1953; Uwasa No Onna, 1954; Akasen Chitai, 1956) are set in the twilight world of the geisha, a milieu for which Mizoguchi always showed particular sympathy.
The last two, Oyû-sama (1951) and Yôkihi (1955), are lesser works; but even lesser Mizoguchi is masterly. The extras are lavish and exemplary.
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