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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 December 2016
I should start by saying this is the best DVD package I have EVER bought. Mizoguchi Kenji was one of the greats and here we have 8 superbly remastered and extremely beautiful prints of 8 extraordinary films from the final part of his career. Not only are the films and the DVDs themselves superb, but they also come with four handsome booklets which contain highly interesting documentation including English translations of all the original tales and folk stories used in the jidaigeki (period drama) films as well as generous selections from the available Mizoguchi literature. The sumptuous presentation could hardly be bettered and MoC are to be applauded for making this set available. Sadly, my review here seems to have come too late. This box is no longer cheaply available which means MoC’s license on these films is running out. My advice is to hunt around second hand places and try and get yourself a copy before it disappears for good.

As a long term resident in Japan and someone who loves a lot of Japanese cinema I’d like to offer a few observations on Mizoguchi before reviewing the films on their respective pages. As many of you will know he is one of the ‘Big Three’ directors that dominated Japanese cinema in the 1950s. Grouped together by their fundamentally humanist concerns, Ozu Yasujirō was as accomplished at the shōmin-geki (home drama) as Kurosawa Akira was at bold metaphysical inquiry. Mizoguchi’s speciality was either jidai-geki (period drama) or gendai-geki (modern day drama) focusing on the subtle fluidity of Japan’s intricately structured class system in which it is much easier to lose one’s foothold in respectability than it is to gain one in the first place. Of the films in this box 4 are jidai-geki works (Ugetsu Monogatari, Sanshō Dayū, Chikamatsu Monogatari and Yōkihi) and 4 are gendai-geki dramas (Oyū-sama, Gion Bayashi, Uwasa no Onna and Akasen Chitai). Mizoguchi’s world is the world of Japanese folk tale, of Kabuki, Nōh theatre, Bunraku and especially of Shinpa, the vital link between Kabuki and gendai-geki cinema. Shinpa melodramatic theater is the place much beloved of this director where moneyed patriarchs lord it over their servile wives and geisha mistresses and it dominates the first period of his oeuvre (1922-27) as well as inflecting all of the consequent phases of his career (socialist tendency drama [1928-31, Meiji era period pieces [1932-35 and 1937-40], social realism [1935-37], the fascist heroic style [1941-44], the postwar democratic exposes [1945-37] and the artistic export film [1951-56]). From virtually first film till last it is the second class status of women that receives the brightest spotlight in Mizoguchi and in film after film women suffer exquisitely at the hands of manipulative men and a patriarchal society which is fundamentally opposed to their existence as anything other than sex toys or breeding machines. Try to raise themselves above their servile position to be man’s equal as they do in his earlier work from the 1930s like Ōsaka Elegy and Sisters of the Gion and they are squished mercilessly. Come the 1950s and the Mizoguchi heroine is more likely to sacrifice herself for her man or her family as shown in virtually every film here. A good example to illustrate how the emphasis in his work swings from the pungent 'social-realist' attack of the 30s to the resigned acceptance of the 50s is by comparing Sisters of the Gion with Gion Bayashi, two films which share basic similarities. In the earlier film the fiery young geisha named Omocha (Yamada Isuzu) rebels against patriarchy and is ultimately destroyed along with her sister. In the later film the young geisha Eiko (Wakao Ayako) also rebels but is forced to bow to patriarchy as her older ‘sister’ (actually her mother’s best friend) sacrifices her own freedom by bedding the client of the offended party. The film ends with both returning to work, resigned endurance through ‘sisterhood’ mutual sacrifice replacing the repugnant unrepentant spite exacerbated by sisterhood rift of Sisters of the Gion. The change in emphasis says something about a shift in Mizoguchi’s position, but it also says something about the changing nature of the film industry and front office interference. Mizoguchi had wanted Eiko to be tougher and more like Omocha, but Daiei vetoed it because they wanted to polish the image of their new star Wakao.

To understand Mizoguchi’s worldview it is helpful to know a few facts about his past. He experienced abject poverty when he was a child following an unwise business venture by his father. Money, poverty, or the fear of poverty hovers over all of his films. He spent a miserable year in icy Morioka (northern Japan) where he contracted rheumatoid arthritis which left him with a life-long limp. His elder sister Suzuko (‘Suzu’) was sold-off to geishadom to alleviate the family’s poverty. The father was a tyrant and Mizoguchi’s hatred for him was life-long. He was raised and supported by Suzu who sacrificed much for him and his brother. He eventually witnessed how she was used and abused by the social system into eventually marrying her rich patron who compromised Mizoguchi by giving him okozukai (pocket money) and paying for much of his education. Here lies the reason why “the subject of women’s suffering is fundamental in all his work” (Satō Tadao) and explains why his films are crammed full of women who sacrifice themselves for their men and their families. Mizoguchi loved Suzu dearly and she introduced him to the various aesthetic influences that dominate his films. In 1913 he was designing patterns for kimono and yukata. In 1916 he was at art school studying Western painting and was helping set decorators at the opera at the Royal Theater in Akasaka. In 1917 he was a newspaper ad designer and in 1920 he became a film actor before directing for the first time in 1923 at the age of 25. He studied traditional Japanese culture (especially Kabuki, Nōh and dance) in Kyoto where Nikkatsu studio was relocated following the great earthquake in Tokyo.

Film commentators are forever dwelling on Suzu’s influence on Mizoguchi in his almost obsessive concern with the plight of women and he has been called a ‘feminist’ a number of times. It is well though to remember that Mizoguchi was himself a life-long devourer of prostitutes and geisha. There is the celebrated instance where he was attacked in a Kyoto bathhouse by a prostitute named Ichijo Yuriko who sliced up his back with a cut-throat razor. With no apparent hard feelings two years later he was living with the same woman in Tokyo! He married in 1926 and his wife Chieko went insane (some say because of his domestic tirades and relentless womanizing) and was institutionalized in 1941 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, after which Mizoguchi lived as common-in-law husband with his wife’s sister and her kids. His private life surrounded by bought women, we can’t say he was fundamentally against geishadom or prostitution. More accurately, he had an innate sympathy for women laid low by social circumstance which was sometimes worse in the indentured slavery of marriage than it was in a geisha house or a well-run brothel. This point is made very clear in his last film, Akasen Chitai. In addition to his liking of ‘women of the night’ we can’t say his behavior towards his female colleagues illustrated a ‘feminist’ outlook either. A notorious tyrannical martinet on set, he famously hounded his actresses mercilessly to get the performances he wanted, regularly reducing them to tears, and wasn’t above meddling in their private lives to get their complete attention. The most famous example is the way he forbade ‘his’ actress Tanaka Kinuyo from directing her second film after completing Uwasa no Onna in 1954, something that she never forgave him for and which ended their 17 year professional relationship.

Much has been made of the restlessness in Mizoguchi’s career. Unlike Ozu and Kurosawa who stayed with one company for most of their careers (Shochiku and Toho respectively), Mizoguchi jumped from company to company, a rare thing for a Japanese director, but something explained by his connection with his producer Nagata Masaichi who was the one who moved around. Mizoguchi merely followed a man who he trusted without question. It is an astonishing fact that Mizoguchi directed some 85 films, out of which only 30 survive. Of these 30 only three silent features survive intact (Song of Home [1923], Cascading White Threads [1933] and The Downfall of Osen [1934]). After spells at Nikkatsu, Shinko, Dai 1 Eiga, Shochiku and Toho, Nagata and Mizoguchi finally fetched up at Daiei. The films of this set comprise 8 of the 9 films he made there from 1951 through to 1956. The missing one is Tales of the Taira Clan (Shin Heike Monogatari, 1955). Also missing is The Life of Oharu (Saikaku Ichidai Onna, 1952) which Daiei didn’t allow him to make. This was Mizoguchi’s personal dream project which he had been nurturing for years and which he was forced finally into making at Shin-Toho studio under less than ideal conditions. He rated The Life of Oharu as his very best work and many commentators concur though Sanshō Dayū and Ugetsu Monogatari are equally revered. The most striking thing about the films in this set is that as you make your way through them, it’s very difficult to find any weaknesses at all such is the consistently high level of quality that is achieved across the board. This comes primarily from Mizoguchi’s close partnership with Yoda Yoshikata, his screenwriter who worked with him constantly from Ōsaka Elegy through to Yōkihi. Each film is endowed with a finely balanced narrative structure which is honed to perfection to pierce through with the greatest subtlety to the very core of the human condition. This is a surprising feat considering the amount of interference they had to put up with from the studio and from censorship boards. What happened to Gion Bayashi has already been noted. Then there was the change to the ending of Ugetsu Monogatari, the rejection of the flashback structure in Oyū-sama, and the imposition of the studio forcing him to make Uwasa no Onna and Yokihi against his will. Oyū-sama is an outstanding Tanizaki Jun’icho adaptation about love perversely repressed while the other three gendai-geki films center on razor-sharp social analysis via melodrama involving women in either geisha houses (Gion Bayashi) or brothels (Uwasa no Onna, Akasen Chitai). All four are psychologically complex, intricately structured and superbly shot and acted. Compared with Sanshō Dayū for example, Yōkihi and Chikamatsu Monogatari might initially seem to be lesser jidai-geki works, but repeated viewings reveal their many qualities. Chikamatsu Monogatari's 'stiffness' is justified by its total fidelity to its source (a Bunraku play), while Yōkihi's different mise-en-scène and color scheme corellates with an effort to recreate as closely as possible 8th century T'ang Dynasty China. Mizoguchi’s first excursion into colour, the film looks and feels different from the other jidai-geki, but the central theme of a woman sacrificing herself for a patriarchal society couldn't be more central to the director's worldview.

Aside from the central thematic of women enduring patriarchy, Mizoguchi is most eulogized for the sumptuous style of his films. This changed over time. Nobody really knows how his early silent films looked as over 40 of them have perished, but by the mid to late 1930s the trademark visual style was coined by Mizoguchi himself ‘one shot, one scene’ and can be seen at its most cuttingly economic in Ōsaka Story and Sisters of the Gion (both 1936) and at its most formalised and stately in The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939). The latter consists of long scenes featuring medium and long shots with no close-ups, no pans, no dissolves, in fact no visable manipulation of the camera at all aside from several jaw-dropping tracking shots which consequently stand out all the more impressively. The emphasis there is on the theatricality (the film is centrally about Kabuki), the acting and the extraordinary mise-en-scène. By the 50s this style changed. Shots are still long and there is still the same fanatical obsession with mise-en-scène (virtually all his interior scenes are shot from a high camera angle looking into the corner of a room which distinguishes it from the Ozuian aesthetic which features square static compositions from a low camera angle) and the precise movement of the actors which constantly suggests off-camera space, but the camera is altogether more mobile with shots blending in to each other with an extraordinarily disciplined perfection with an almost musical editing style. Mizoguchi's legendary cameraman Miyagawa Kazuo said in 1992 that 70% of Ugetsu Monogatari was shot using a crane, an instrument which dominates the feel of all the films from 1951 onwards. Nobody moves the camera like Mizoguchi and in films like Sanshō Dayū and Ugetsu Monogatari we get great set piece scenes which are among the peaks of all cinema. Anju (Kagawa Kyoko) walking into the lake in Sanshō Dayū; the boat scene on the lake and the death of Miyagi (Tanaka Kuniyo) in Ugetsu Monogatari; and the final scenes of both films are all rightly celebrated for their peerless artistry. And yet what we get with Mizoguchi isn’t just artistry and technical brilliance. Beyond that there’s a profundity that comes only with the very greatest artists who address the eternal truths relevant to us all in a journey to the very heart of the human condition in film after glorious film. It's a journey which triumphantly transcends cultural differences which divide audiences. As James Quandt once said, “Mizoguchi is cinema’s Shakespeare, its Bach or Beethoven, its Rembrandt, Titian or Picasso.” Amen to that and amen to MoC for presenting the films in a package worthy of their quality.

What follows is basic information about the releases. A sturdy box contains 4 duel packs with hefty booklets contained in each one. The presentation on BD is the same but apparently the booklets have been combined into a single substantial book. The articles by Mark Le Fanu and Keiko I. McDonald have been extracted from their now out of print books on Mizoguchi. They are as follows:

Mark Le Fanu: Mizoguchi and Japan (ISBN: 1844570576), published by BFI, 2005
Keiko I. McDonald: Mizoguchi (ISBN: 0805792953), published by Twayne Publishers, 1984

OYŪ-SAMA (Miss Oyū)
(1951, Japan, 94 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
UGETSU MONOGATARI (Tales of the Rain and Moon)
(1953, Japan, 97 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
EXTRAS: Tony Rayns introductions to both films in 2 talks
BOOKLET: Keiko I. McDonald on both films in 2 articles / English translation of complete Ueda Akinari short stories used for Ugetsu Monogatari (The Reed-Choked House, A Serpent’s Lust)
DVD COVER: Reversible inlay cover with colorful original Japanese poster on the back of the b/w English design

GION BAYASHI (Gion Festival Music)
(1953, Japan, 85 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
SANSHŌ DAYŪ (Sanshō, the Bailiff)
(1954, Japan, 125 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
EXTRAS: Tony Rayns introductions to both films in 2 talks
BOOKLET: Robin Wood on Sanshō Dayū and Ugetsu Monogatari / Mark Le Fanu on both films in 2 articles
English translation of complete Mori Ōgai story Sanshō Dayū / 1937 Interview with Mizoguchi on geisha
DVD COVER: Reversible inlay cover with colorful original Japanese poster on the back of the b/w English design

CHIKAMATSU MONOGATARI (A Tale from Chikamatsu, aka The Crucified Lovers)
(1954, Japan, 102 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
UWASA NO ONNA (The Woman in the Rumour, aka The Woman of Rumour)
(1954, Japan, 84 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
EXTRAS: Tony Rayns introductions to both films in 2 talks
BOOKLET: Mark Le Fanu on Chikamatsu Monogatari / Keiko I. McDonald on Uwasa no Onna
English translation of Ihara Saikaku’s What the Season Brought the Almanac Maker & Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s The Almanac of Love (source stories for Chikamatsu Monogatari)
DVD COVER: Reversible inlay cover with colorful original Japanese poster on the back of the b/w English design

YŌKIHI (Imperial Concubine Yang, aka Yang Kwei Fei)
(1955, Japan, 92 min, color, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
AKASEN CHITAI (Red Light District, aka Street of Shame)
(1956, Japan, 86 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
EXTRAS: Tony Rayns introductions to both films in 2 talks / Commentary on Akasen Chitai
BOOKLET: Mark Le Fanu on Yōkihi / Keiko I. McDonald on Akasen Chitai / Mizoguchi Tribute
English translation of Yōkihi: The Film and Legend by Nakagawa Masako
English translation of Ch’ang hen ko [A Song of Unending Sorrow] by Po Chü-i
DVD COVER: Reversible inlay cover with colorful original Japanese poster on the back of the b/w English design
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on 15 November 2016
excellent movies
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 January 2017
What follows is a review of the MoC's Mizoguchi box of DVDs. I post it here on the BD page as the review is concerned primarily with the films with the content (including all the extras) being exactly the same. The one essential difference between the two boxes is that with this BD box the booklets from the 4 duel DVD sets are combined into one hefty book. These are 8 wonderful films immaculately presented and should be snapped up before they disappear for good.
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I should start by saying this is the best DVD package I have EVER bought. Mizoguchi Kenji was one of the greats and here we have 8 superbly remastered and extremely beautiful prints of 8 extraordinary films from the final part of his career. Not only are the films and the DVDs themselves superb, but they also come with four handsome booklets which contain highly interesting documentation including English translations of all the original tales and folk stories used in the jidaigeki (period drama) films as well as generous selections from the available Mizoguchi literature. The sumptuous presentation could hardly be bettered and MoC are to be applauded for making this set available. Sadly, my review here seems to have come too late. This box is no longer cheaply available which means MoC’s license on these films is running out. My advice is to hunt around second hand places and try and get yourself a copy before it disappears for good.

As a long term resident in Japan and someone who loves a lot of Japanese cinema I’d like to offer a few observations on Mizoguchi before reviewing the films on their respective pages. As many of you will know he is one of the ‘Big Three’ directors that dominated Japanese cinema in the 1950s. Grouped together by their fundamentally humanist concerns, Ozu Yasujirō was as accomplished at the shōmin-geki (home drama) as Kurosawa Akira was at bold metaphysical inquiry. Mizoguchi’s speciality was either jidai-geki (period drama) or gendai-geki (modern day drama) focusing on the subtle fluidity of Japan’s intricately structured class system in which it is much easier to lose one’s foothold in respectability than it is to gain one in the first place. Of the films in this box 4 are jidai-geki works (Ugetsu Monogatari, Sanshō Dayū, Chikamatsu Monogatari and Yōkihi) and 4 are gendai-geki dramas (Oyū-sama, Gion Bayashi, Uwasa no Onna and Akasen Chitai). Mizoguchi’s world is the world of Japanese folk tale, of Kabuki, Nōh theatre, Bunraku and especially of Shinpa, the vital link between Kabuki and gendai-geki cinema. Shinpa melodramatic theater is the place much beloved of this director where moneyed patriarchs lord it over their servile wives and geisha mistresses and it dominates the first period of his oeuvre (1922-27) as well as inflecting all of the consequent phases of his career (socialist tendency drama [1928-31, Meiji era period pieces [1932-35 and 1937-40], social realism [1935-37], the fascist heroic style [1941-44], the postwar democratic exposes [1945-37] and the artistic export film [1951-56]). From virtually first film till last it is the second class status of women that receives the brightest spotlight in Mizoguchi and in film after film women suffer exquisitely at the hands of manipulative men and a patriarchal society which is fundamentally opposed to their existence as anything other than sex toys or breeding machines. Try to raise themselves above their servile position to be man’s equal as they do in his earlier work from the 1930s like Ōsaka Elegy and Sisters of the Gion and they are squished mercilessly. Come the 1950s and the Mizoguchi heroine is more likely to sacrifice herself for her man or her family as shown in virtually every film here. A good example to illustrate how the emphasis in his work swings from the pungent 'social-realist' attack of the 30s to the resigned acceptance of the 50s is by comparing Sisters of the Gion with Gion Bayashi, two films which share basic similarities. In the earlier film the fiery young geisha named Omocha (Yamada Isuzu) rebels against patriarchy and is ultimately destroyed along with her sister. In the later film the young geisha Eiko (Wakao Ayako) also rebels but is forced to bow to patriarchy as her older ‘sister’ (actually her mother’s best friend) sacrifices her own freedom by bedding the client of the offended party. The film ends with both returning to work, resigned endurance through ‘sisterhood’ mutual sacrifice replacing the repugnant unrepentant spite exacerbated by sisterhood rift of Sisters of the Gion. The change in emphasis says something about a shift in Mizoguchi’s position, but it also says something about the changing nature of the film industry and front office interference. Mizoguchi had wanted Eiko to be tougher and more like Omocha, but Daiei vetoed it because they wanted to polish the image of their new star Wakao.

To understand Mizoguchi’s worldview it is helpful to know a few facts about his past. He experienced abject poverty when he was a child following an unwise business venture by his father. Money, poverty, or the fear of poverty hovers over all of his films. He spent a miserable year in icy Morioka (northern Japan) where he contracted rheumatoid arthritis which left him with a life-long limp. His elder sister Suzuko (‘Suzu’) was sold-off to geishadom to alleviate the family’s poverty. The father was a tyrant and Mizoguchi’s hatred for him was life-long. He was raised and supported by Suzu who sacrificed much for him and his brother. He eventually witnessed how she was used and abused by the social system into eventually marrying her rich patron who compromised Mizoguchi by giving him okozukai (pocket money) and paying for much of his education. Here lies the reason why “the subject of women’s suffering is fundamental in all his work” (Satō Tadao) and explains why his films are crammed full of women who sacrifice themselves for their men and their families. Mizoguchi loved Suzu dearly and she introduced him to the various aesthetic influences that dominate his films. In 1913 he was designing patterns for kimono and yukata. In 1916 he was at art school studying Western painting and was helping set decorators at the opera at the Royal Theater in Akasaka. In 1917 he was a newspaper ad designer and in 1920 he became a film actor before directing for the first time in 1923 at the age of 25. He studied traditional Japanese culture (especially Kabuki, Nōh and dance) in Kyoto where Nikkatsu studio was relocated following the great earthquake in Tokyo.

Film commentators are forever dwelling on Suzu’s influence on Mizoguchi in his almost obsessive concern with the plight of women and he has been called a ‘feminist’ a number of times. It is well though to remember that Mizoguchi was himself a life-long devourer of prostitutes and geisha. There is the celebrated instance where he was attacked in a Kyoto bathhouse by a prostitute named Ichijo Yuriko who sliced up his back with a cut-throat razor. With no apparent hard feelings two years later he was living with the same woman in Tokyo! He married in 1926 and his wife Chieko went insane (some say because of his domestic tirades and relentless womanizing) and was institutionalized in 1941 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, after which Mizoguchi lived as common-in-law husband with his wife’s sister and her kids. His private life surrounded by bought women, we can’t say he was fundamentally against geishadom or prostitution. More accurately, he had an innate sympathy for women laid low by social circumstance which was sometimes worse in the indentured slavery of marriage than it was in a geisha house or a well-run brothel. This point is made very clear in his last film, Akasen Chitai. In addition to his liking of ‘women of the night’ we can’t say his behavior towards his female colleagues illustrated a ‘feminist’ outlook either. A notorious tyrannical martinet on set, he famously hounded his actresses mercilessly to get the performances he wanted, regularly reducing them to tears, and wasn’t above meddling in their private lives to get their complete attention. The most famous example is the way he forbade ‘his’ actress Tanaka Kinuyo from directing her second film after completing Uwasa no Onna in 1954, something that she never forgave him for and which ended their 17 year professional relationship.

Much has been made of the restlessness in Mizoguchi’s career. Unlike Ozu and Kurosawa who stayed with one company for most of their careers (Shochiku and Toho respectively), Mizoguchi jumped from company to company, a rare thing for a Japanese director, but something explained by his connection with his producer Nagata Masaichi who was the one who moved around. Mizoguchi merely followed a man who he trusted without question. It is an astonishing fact that Mizoguchi directed some 85 films, out of which only 30 survive. Of these 30 only three silent features survive intact (Song of Home [1923], Cascading White Threads [1933] and The Downfall of Osen [1934]). After spells at Nikkatsu, Shinko, Dai 1 Eiga, Shochiku and Toho, Nagata and Mizoguchi finally fetched up at Daiei. The films of this set comprise 8 of the 9 films he made there from 1951 through to 1956. The missing one is Tales of the Taira Clan (Shin Heike Monogatari, 1955). Also missing is The Life of Oharu (Saikaku Ichidai Onna, 1952) which Daiei didn’t allow him to make. This was Mizoguchi’s personal dream project which he had been nurturing for years and which he was forced finally into making at Shin-Toho studio under less than ideal conditions. He rated The Life of Oharu as his very best work and many commentators concur though Sanshō Dayū and Ugetsu Monogatari are equally revered. The most striking thing about the films in this set is that as you make your way through them, it’s very difficult to find any weaknesses at all such is the consistently high level of quality that is achieved across the board. This comes primarily from Mizoguchi’s close partnership with Yoda Yoshikata, his screenwriter who worked with him constantly from Ōsaka Elegy through to Yōkihi. Each film is endowed with a finely balanced narrative structure which is honed to perfection to pierce through with the greatest subtlety to the very core of the human condition. This is a surprising feat considering the amount of interference they had to put up with from the studio and from censorship boards. What happened to Gion Bayashi has already been noted. Then there was the change to the ending of Ugetsu Monogatari, the rejection of the flashback structure in Oyū-sama, and the imposition of the studio forcing him to make Uwasa no Onna and Yokihi against his will. Oyū-sama is an outstanding Tanizaki Jun’icho adaptation about love perversely repressed while the other three gendai-geki films center on razor-sharp social analysis via melodrama involving women in either geisha houses (Gion Bayashi) or brothels (Uwasa no Onna, Akasen Chitai). All four are psychologically complex, intricately structured and superbly shot and acted. Compared with Sanshō Dayū for example, Yōkihi and Chikamatsu Monogatari might initially seem to be lesser jidai-geki works, but repeated viewings reveal their many qualities. Chikamatsu Monogatari's 'stiffness' is justified by its total fidelity to its source (a Bunraku play), while Yōkihi's different mise-en-scène and color scheme corellates with an effort to recreate as closely as possible 8th century T'ang Dynasty China. Mizoguchi’s first excursion into colour, the film looks and feels different from the other jidai-geki, but the central theme of a woman sacrificing herself for a patriarchal society couldn't be more central to the director's worldview.

Aside from the central thematic of women enduring patriarchy, Mizoguchi is most eulogized for the sumptuous style of his films. This changed over time. Nobody really knows how his early silent films looked as over 40 of them have perished, but by the mid to late 1930s the trademark visual style was coined by Mizoguchi himself ‘one shot, one scene’ and can be seen at its most cuttingly economic in Ōsaka Story and Sisters of the Gion (both 1936) and at its most formalised and stately in The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939). The latter consists of long scenes featuring medium and long shots with no close-ups, no pans, no dissolves, in fact no visable manipulation of the camera at all aside from several jaw-dropping tracking shots which consequently stand out all the more impressively. The emphasis there is on the theatricality (the film is centrally about Kabuki), the acting and the extraordinary mise-en-scène. By the 50s this style changed. Shots are still long and there is still the same fanatical obsession with mise-en-scène (virtually all his interior scenes are shot from a high camera angle looking into the corner of a room which distinguishes it from the Ozuian aesthetic which features square static compositions from a low camera angle) and the precise movement of the actors which constantly suggests off-camera space, but the camera is altogether more mobile with shots blending in to each other with an extraordinarily disciplined perfection with an almost musical editing style. Mizoguchi's legendary cameraman Miyagawa Kazuo said in 1992 that 70% of Ugetsu Monogatari was shot using a crane, an instrument which dominates the feel of all the films from 1951 onwards. Nobody moves the camera like Mizoguchi and in films like Sanshō Dayū and Ugetsu Monogatari we get great set piece scenes which are among the peaks of all cinema. Anju (Kagawa Kyoko) walking into the lake in Sanshō Dayū; the boat scene on the lake and the death of Miyagi (Tanaka Kuniyo) in Ugetsu Monogatari; and the final scenes of both films are all rightly celebrated for their peerless artistry. And yet what we get with Mizoguchi isn’t just artistry and technical brilliance. Beyond that there’s a profundity that comes only with the very greatest artists who address the eternal truths relevant to us all in a journey to the very heart of the human condition in film after glorious film. It's a journey which triumphantly transcends cultural differences which divide audiences. As James Quandt once said, “Mizoguchi is cinema’s Shakespeare, its Bach or Beethoven, its Rembrandt, Titian or Picasso.” Amen to that and amen to MoC for presenting the films in a package worthy of their quality.

What follows is basic information about the releases. A sturdy box contains 4 duel packs with hefty booklets contained in each one. The presentation on BD is the same but apparently the booklets have been combined into a single substantial book. The articles by Mark Le Fanu and Keiko I. McDonald have been extracted from their now out of print books on Mizoguchi. They are as follows:

Mark Le Fanu: Mizoguchi and Japan (ISBN: 1844570576), published by BFI, 2005
Keiko I. McDonald: Mizoguchi (ISBN: 0805792953), published by Twayne Publishers, 1984

OYŪ-SAMA (Miss Oyū)
(1951, Japan, 94 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
UGETSU MONOGATARI (Tales of the Rain and Moon)
(1953, Japan, 97 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
EXTRAS: Tony Rayns introductions to both films in 2 talks
BOOKLET: Keiko I. McDonald on both films in 2 articles / English translation of complete Ueda Akinari short stories used for Ugetsu Monogatari (The Reed-Choked House, A Serpent’s Lust)
DVD COVER: Reversible inlay cover with colorful original Japanese poster on the back of the b/w English design

GION BAYASHI (Gion Festival Music)
(1953, Japan, 85 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
SANSHŌ DAYŪ (Sanshō, the Bailiff)
(1954, Japan, 125 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
EXTRAS: Tony Rayns introductions to both films in 2 talks
BOOKLET: Robin Wood on Sanshō Dayū and Ugetsu Monogatari / Mark Le Fanu on both films in 2 articles
English translation of complete Mori Ōgai story Sanshō Dayū / 1937 Interview with Mizoguchi on geisha
DVD COVER: Reversible inlay cover with colorful original Japanese poster on the back of the b/w English design

CHIKAMATSU MONOGATARI (A Tale from Chikamatsu, aka The Crucified Lovers)
(1954, Japan, 102 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
UWASA NO ONNA (The Woman in the Rumour, aka The Woman of Rumour)
(1954, Japan, 84 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
EXTRAS: Tony Rayns introductions to both films in 2 talks
BOOKLET: Mark Le Fanu on Chikamatsu Monogatari / Keiko I. McDonald on Uwasa no Onna
English translation of Ihara Saikaku’s What the Season Brought the Almanac Maker & Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s The Almanac of Love (source stories for Chikamatsu Monogatari)
DVD COVER: Reversible inlay cover with colorful original Japanese poster on the back of the b/w English design

YŌKIHI (Imperial Concubine Yang, aka Yang Kwei Fei)
(1955, Japan, 92 min, color, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
AKASEN CHITAI (Red Light District, aka Street of Shame)
(1956, Japan, 86 min, b/w, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
EXTRAS: Tony Rayns introductions to both films in 2 talks / Commentary on Akasen Chitai
BOOKLET: Mark Le Fanu on Yōkihi / Keiko I. McDonald on Akasen Chitai / Mizoguchi Tribute
English translation of Yōkihi: The Film and Legend by Nakagawa Masako
English translation of Ch’ang hen ko [A Song of Unending Sorrow] by Po Chü-i
DVD COVER: Reversible inlay cover with colorful original Japanese poster on the back of the b/w English design
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on 18 February 2011
If you have any interest at all in genuine high-quality film-making or golden-age Japanese cinema this box set is the bargain of the century.

Mizoguchi is one of the gods of Japanese cinema; Akira Kurosawa created the definitive samurai movie; Yasujiro Ozu poignantly depicted the distances between generations and the changing face of the family; but the principle concern of Kenji Mizoguchi was how women suffered in a male-dominated society. This heartfelt theme was almost certainly instigated by his father's brutal treatment of Mizoguchi's mother and sisters and the eventual selling of his older sister into the life of a geisha. In almost all of these films women suffer terribly as a result of inflexible social rules and hierarchies. (Watching them, however, is continuously rewarding.)

Part of what makes these movies so outstanding is Mizoguchi's artistic use of the camera with meticulously executed long takes. Although only one of the movies is shot in colour, his use of lighting and composition shares all the luminous formal beauty of Japanese art.

Sansho Dayu and Ugetsu Monogatari are frequently top (or near the top) of critics' lists of best movies of all time and this collection represents Mizoguchi's finest work. At this price this collection of masterpieces is absolutely essential.
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on 5 November 2013
4 discs in 4 separate cases. Very large book with text collected from DVD editions. Nice slipcase. Overall a very nice package. The films from this set that I have already seen are some of the greatest films of all time. I'm looking forward to re-watching them and getting to see the others for the first time. This set is limited to 2000 copies so I suggest if you are on the fence not to wait to much longer as these will surely sell out. Great addition to any collection of classic films. Buy with confidence.
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on 5 March 2013
As a kimono-addict, especially the ones from the period WWI / WWII, I looooved this box. Sitting on the couch I pointed out the nicest kimono and obi to my friend who is an aficionado too. Also, it was very insightful to see everyday live in Japan just after the war, from the way people acted to interior design and the mingling of the old world with the new, modern and western-influenced one. The only sad thing was, not all the movies are in full colour.
And of course, the stories were sad too. Every Japanese film seems to end in tears! No wonder in a country with so many suicides!
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on 24 November 2013
yes i owned the previous releases ! and still i bhought this set. its just awesome to get 8 mizoguchi movies and this awesome BOOK (its no booklet anymore!)
grab your copy while its still avaible, Eureka is gonna lose the license to these 8 mozoguchi movies, thats why they released the new movies only in this boxset.

get it before its to late. these movies look awesome ! highly recommend this set for this price. (better order it directly @ eureka shop)

greetings from germany
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on 12 February 2014
A wonderful collection .. I had the previous releases of Ugetso Monogatari + Oyu-Sama and Sansho Dayu + Gion Bayashi so I was a little upset when I discovered that I had to buy them again to get the new ones. But it paid off. I got number 1440 of 2000.
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on 18 November 2013
This Blu ray box set will be available for a limited period before price and availability exclude the possibility of obtaining this set at a reasonable price. If you are at all curious about classic Japanese cinema this Blu ray release will not be bettered anytime soon, if ever. Mizoguchi is one of the very best directors of the early to mid 20th century, with these late films included in this set being the pinnacle of his art.
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on 21 May 2014
Beautiful box set with lovely booklet. None of the discs played on the two blu ray players we have at home - not acceptable. A shame as I love Mizoguchi's films.
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