Kenji Mizoguchi on Blu-ray from Masters of Cinema
When Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon won the top prize at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, it was – for most Western audiences – their introduction to Japanese cinema, notwithstanding that the country had enjoyed long and illustrious film industry for decades before that.
One of the recipients of the movie world’s belated patronage was Kenji Mizoguchi, who had been making films since the 1920s but suddenly found himself a global star winning three back-to-back Silver Lions for The Life of Oharu, Ugetsu Monogatari and Sansho Dayu between 1952 and 1954. Ironically, the younger Kurosawa had brought attention to a veteran who, as it turned out, only had a few years left to live: Mizoguchi died in 1956.
Confession: I am pretty much the modern equivalent of those Venice audiences, since Akira Kurosawa was my introduction to Japanese cinema, too. Up to this point, Sansho Dayu was the only Kenji Mizoguchi film I’d seen, but thanks to Masters Of Cinema I noq have the chance to quadruple that tally.
Today sees the release of two Blu-ray double bills from the always-ace MoC stable, one pairing Ugetsu Monogatari with 1951’s Miss Oyu, the other containing Sansho Dayu and 1953’s Gion Bayashi.
So far, I’ve watched the ‘lead’ film in each set, both rightly acknowledged as film classics – and reviews of Ugetsu Monogatari and Sansho Dayu will follow later this week. The others I’m look forward to seeing, in order to catch up (like those 1950s audiences before me) with more Mizoguchi.