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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost Mizoguchi film found in Korea, 26 Feb 2013
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This review is from: 47 RONIN:KOREAN ALL REGION IMPORT~A KENJI MIZOGUCHI FILM (DVD)
A group of samurai plot an elaborate revenge on a lord who slighted the honour of their own master.

Most of Mizoguchi's films are now available in very nice DVD editions through Masters of Cinema or Artificial Eye. There is however one film conspicuously absent - his epic version of the oft told "47 Ronin" tale, made during wartime in 1941. I'm not sure if this film has ever even been shown in cinemas in UK (unlike Mizoguchi's other wartime film "Story of the Last Chrysanthemums" - a brilliant romantic melodrama - which is on DVD and has been screened a lot, even on late night TV).

This review is simply to inform anyone interested that, lo & behold, a DVD edition of "47 Ronin" does actually exist and is currently available at a cheap price on import through Amazon. It is a Korean video but is `region free' - and it played fine on my fairly old and rudimentary DVD player. The film is in Japanese with subtitle options in Korean and English. The English subtitles are in yellow, which is a bit odd but you get used to it quickly. The quality of the transfer is not great but better than I was expecting and it could be that the surviving master copies are poor quality - I don't think the film has been `restored' yet.

The film itself is a very mixed bag. It has been seen by some critics as a wartime white elephant that flopped with audiences at the time and was all but disowned by the director. Other critics hail it as Mizoguchi's most radical masterpiece in terms of a unique style that rejects conventional cinematic (Hollywood) norms. Personally I didn't find the film to be the masterpiece I was hoping for - certainly not comparable with "Last Chrysanthemum". The storyline of "47 Ronin" is very thin for such a lengthy film and the whole ideology behind the film manages to be both absurd and disturbing. This is a wartime film extolling patriotic militaristic fascistic values, albeit in an almost incomprehensibly oblique form. On the other hand, this formalism is an example of Mizoguchi's trademark style (dedramatization of narrative, long sequence shots, tracking shots, peculiar decentring of space etc) taken to an extreme. As such, there are several sublime scenes - although whether these compensate for the flaws in the film as a whole is debatable.

Anyway, I'm sure there will be Mizoguchi fans out there who will want to see this film and decide for themselves - and on that basis I'd recommend grabbing a copy of this cheap Korean edition, because a proper restored version is unlikely to be appearing in the UK anytime soon.
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