The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. For more information on films playing in the Cinémathèque, please call 773-281-4114. To order advance tickets online, visit the TicketWeb website by clicking here.
ELEGIES OF MOONLIGHT AND RAIN:
THE FILMS OF KENJI MIZOGUCHI
"He is the Japanese director I admire and respect the most...He never compromised. He never said, 'This'll be enough.'...he continually pushed every element until it reached his own vision." -Akira Kurosawa
"[Mizoguchi is] the greatest of Japanese filmmakers. Or, quite simply, one of the greatest of filmmakers." -Jean-Luc Godard
"[He] ended his career with four films (The Life of Oharu, Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff, Street of Shame) whose pained wisdom and fluidity of form are the film equivalent of Beethoven's last Quartets." -Time
Born impoverished in 1898 Tokyo and exposed first-hand from an early age to the systematic oppression of women in Japanese society - his sister was sold as a geisha and his father abused his mother and sister - pantheon film director Kenji Mizoguchi had numerous influences molding his worldview. Mizoguchi emerged with a body of work that is as sublimely timeless as it is transcendental, rising above the aggression and exploitation found in the world-at-large. A painstaking attention to period detail as well as lighting, frame composition and long, unbroken takes coupled with his intuitive outlook and empathy for his characters, reveals a simple poetry of supernatural power. Along with Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, Mizoguchi remains at the pinnacle of not just Japan's motion picture legacy, but of international cinema. (American Cinematheque). The Facets Cinèmathéque is very pleased to present this short retrospective of some of Mizoguchi's most enduring masterpieces, which will continue later this year, including Sanshô the Baliff, Story of the Last Chrysanthemums, Ugetsu, Street of Shame and Life of Oharu.
Recommended! "One of Kenji Mizoguchi's finest efforts... The narrative is precisely crafted" -Chicago Reader
"A gutsy early feminist drama" -Chicago Tribune
Ayako becomes her boss's mistress to financially assist her wayward father and student brother. But her efforts go largely unappreciated by her family and set in motion a new spiral of catastrophes. Mizoguichi's first acknowledged masterwork is a simple tale transformed by his intuitive mise-en-scene and inspired performances into a an emotionally devastating tragedy.
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1936, 35mm, 90 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles.
"Superbly acted, shot and scripted, this is searing stuff." -Time Out
"The style is sublime; the camera glides through poetic sets as emotions delicately unwind" -Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
Recommended! "This nuanced melodrama...signaled the emergence of his distinctive voice and style" -Chicago Reader
This film was ranked number one on Kinema Junpo's "Best Ten List" in 1936. The story is a realistic look at the world of the geisha as shown through two very different sisters: one is old-fashioned while the other is more modern. Mizoguchi depicts how the two women are victimized by vicious capitalism and male-dominated society. "What Hollywood film-or for that matter what film from Popular Front France-came anywhere near this lucidity, this indignation, about the helplessness of women?" (Susan Sontag). It's easy to see why it was one of Sontag's favorite films, as its portrayal of women under the heel of patriarchal culture still resonates today.
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1936, 35mm, 68 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles.
THE STORY OF THE LAST CHRYSANTHEMUMS
New 35mm print!
A stunning harbinger of the mature Mizoguchi style, and a genuinely moving exploration of female self-sacrifice -- a favourite Mizoguchi theme -- this beautifully realized period piece is set in the world of Kabuki theatre in late-19th century Japan. Shotaro Hanayagi is Kikunosuke, spoiled scion of a famed Kabuki family, who finds himself expelled from the family bosom for his cavalier attitude towards his craft. When he takes up with Otoku (Kakuko Mori), a humble maid, her devotion and selflessness permit him to make the long climb up from poverty and hardship as a touring provincial performer to success and renown at the very top of his profession. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums is a majestic work made up of masterfully mobile long-take sequence shots; this is the film in which the celebrated Mizoguchi mise-en-scène style truly came into its own. The director, for his part, cited Chrysanthemums as the point at which "I began really to make my own films." (Pacific film Archive)
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1939, 35mm, 142 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles.
"A film that is both impassioned and elegiac...achingly remote in its fragile beauty" -Time Out
Recommended! "This is one of the greats, and I'm too much in awe of it to say much more than: See it -- as often as you can." -Chicago Reader
In 11th-century Japan, a liberal-minded provincial governor is forced into exile by enemies who cannot abide his politics. When his wife and children set out to join him, they find themselves horribly victimized by slave traders. Sumptuously shot by Ugetsu and Rashomon cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, and based on an ancient Japanese folk tale, Sanshô offers a timeless, humanist statement of injustice and suffering, making it often unbearably moving and yet never sentimental. Sanshô the Bailiff was the third Mizoguchi work in a row to win a major prize at Venice (after The Life of Oharu and Ugetsu), and ranks as one of the director's most awesome achievements. (Pacific Film Archive)
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1954, 35mm, 125 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles.
"[Includes] one of the great tracking shots in cinema history" -Time
"One of the greatest of all films" -Roger Ebert
Recommended! "Ugetsu is one of the great experiences of cinema" -Chicago Reader
"Mizoguchi's generosity of spirit leads to an ending that's simultaneously devastating and bittersweet" -The Onion
A work of unsurpassed lyricism and emotional power, Ugetsu is considered by many to be Mizoguchi's masterpiece, and is frequently cited as one of the greatest films ever made. During the feudal wars of the 16th century, an ambitious village potter abandons his devoted wife for the wealth of the city and the illicit pleasures of a ghost woman. Only too late does he realize that nothing he has gained is worth the love he has forsaken.
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1953, 35mm print, 96 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles.
"Devastating...A heightened realism not often seen in Japanese films at the time" -Senses of Cinema
"A grim but profoundly moving study...intent and heart-rending" -Time Out
½ "A hard-edged examination of prostitution in Tokyo's Dreamland and a sensational shocker" -Chicago Tribune
Recommended! "There's a growly toughness to it that doesn't seem like the Mizoguchi of old...Well worth seeing" -Chicago Reader
Street of Shame -- the Japanese title translates as "Red-Light District" -- was Mizoguchi's last completed film; the director died of leukemia, at the age of 58, in the year of its release. Set in a Tokyo brothel called "Dreamland", and featuring an ensemble cast of superb actresses, the film profiles five prostitutes, and examines their various reasons for entering the trade.
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1956, 35mm, 88 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles.
"Both formally beautiful and unsentimentally compassionate, The Life Of Oharu deserves to be seen and appreciated on the big screen" -BBC
Mizoguchi considered The Life of Oharu his masterpiece and critics have placed it among the greatest films of all time. Based on a seventeenth-century novel, the film chronicles the decline of a beautiful court lady who is gradually stripped of social respectability until she is reduced to prostitution and beggary. Mizoguchi's sympathy for the plight of women in feudal society is here given its most perfect and profound expression. (Pacific Film Archive)
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1952, 35mm, 137 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles.