Like Tokyo Story director Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi snared Western admiration only as his career was burning down to the embers. Like Ozu, Mizoguchi's films milk potent emotions from unspooling celluloid. Unlike Ozu, Mr M loves a good tracking shot. Shunning close-ups and cuts, his camera slides free, pursuing its characters and stories in sinuous, captivating takes. The pay-off? Something subtle, revealing and infinitely poignant.
In this bleak 1952 drama, made just four years before his death, the director cements his unique sensitivity for the plight of women. The story follows Oharu (the superb Kinuyo Tanaka), a 17th-century woman whose affair with a lovestruck page (Toshirô Mifune) sees him given the chop and her set on a tragic spiral from imperial attendant to exiled concubine to withered prostitute. There's beauty to be found in suffering - and Mizoguchi knows exactly where to look.