- Actors: Machiko Kyo, Aiko Mimasu, Masayuki Mori
- Directors: Kenji Mizoguchi
- Format: PAL
- Language: Japanese
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.37:1
- Number of discs: 2
- Classification: 12
- Studio: Eureka Entertainment LTD
- DVD Release Date: 26 May 2008
- Run Time: 178 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B0015FNF10
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,086 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
Akasen Chitai/Yokihi [Masters Of Cinema]  [DVD]
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Akasen Chitai [Red Light District, aka Street of Shame] sadly, the very last film by Kenji Mizoguchi (Sansho Dayu, Ugetsu Monogatari) presents a vivid portrait of prostitution in 1950s Japan. In a Tokyo brothel named Dreamland an obvious irony given the faded hopes of those who work there the lives of five prostitutes intersect. Each has a very different story for how they entered the profession, but what they share is the struggle to make sense of the red light district and its cycle of exploitation. Filmed shortly before the Japanese government's introduction of an anti-prostitution bill, Akasen Chitai is a compelling study of women torn between financial necessity and questions of conscience. It was nominated for the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and inspired French critic Jean Douchet to proclaim: For me, along with Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux and Renoir's La Règle du Jeu, the greatest film in the history of cinema. Set many centuries earlier, Yokihi [Imperial Concubine Yang, aka Yang Kwei Fei] recounts the Chinese legend referred to in its title. In eighth-century T'ang China, widowed Emperor Hsüan-tsung (Masayuki Mori) reigns alone, devoting his life to the composition of music. When he meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman (Machiko Kyo), who will become his imperial concubine, a tale of political intrigue and rival dynasties is set in motion, with ultimately tragic consequences. Sumptuously filmed in vibrant colour, Yokihi is the most ancient of Mizoguchi's costume dramas, yet its central themes of passion, sorrow, and the conflict between love and power remain timeless it was also nominated for the Golden Lion at Venice. -------------- SPECIAL FEATURES: 2 x disc special edition containing new transfers of both films. New and improved English subtitles. Full length Akasen Chitai audio commentary and a video discussion about Yokihi by acclaimed Japanese film expert/critic, festival programmer, and filmmaker Tony Rayns. Original theatrical trailers. 64-page booklet featuring writing by Keiko I. McDonald (author of Mizoguchi), Mark Le Fanu (author of Mizoguchi and Japan), Masako Nakagawa (author of The Yang Kuei-fei Legend in Japanese Literature), ninth-century poetry (A Song of Unending Sorrow) by Po Chü-i, and rare production stills.
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Top Customer Reviews
The main feature here is AKASEN CHITAI, which was Mizoguchi's very last film (1956). It's a fairly low-key movie set in a postwar Tokyo brothel & looks at the seedy lives of the prostitutes, pimps & clients - this is the grim downbeat world of prostitution with none of the usual exotic geisha distraction to sweeten the pill. Every character is equally corrupt and degenerate. Perhaps the film is a scathing attack on prostitution, but I think Mizoguchi is not really judging anyone but rather saying that everyone has their own motives and reasons for doing what they do.
Apparently AKASEN was a huge success in Japan which is surprising given its uncompromising style, but it is definitely an exceptional film. It's amazing that that the old and dying Mizoguchi could come up with something so sharp and modern. In the booklet essay Kieko MacDonald criticizes the brief final scene, but I thought it one of the most effective closing images I've ever seen - especially given that it closes Miziguchi's long career.
In complete contrast, the other feature, YOKIHI, is a lavish costume drama - filmed in colour - and based on an old Chinese tale. It concerns love, romance and the fickleness of power in the royal court. It's basically hokum but beautifully stylised - I really enjoyed it!
This release might be thought to lack the appeal of the previous three releases in the series (eg SANSHO and UGETSU), but it can be thoroughly recommended to anyone who loves Mizoguchi and, indeed, to anyone who loves classic Japanese cinema.