1952, Janus Films, 137 min, Japan, Dir: Kenji Mizoguchi

Based on one of Japan’s first novels, the 17th-century The Woman Who Loved Love by Saikaku Ihara. Kinuyo Tanaka is Oharu, a samurai’s daughter expelled from her station as a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial Palace for falling in love with a man below her rank. Driven into exile along with her parents, she soon resorts to being a kept woman, then finally a common prostitute. Mizoguchi expertly walks a tightrope, delivering an unflinching examination of a sensitive woman’s emotional brutalization without manipulative sentimentality. Another masterwork. With Ichiro Sugai and Toshiro Mifune.

1953, Janus Films, 94 min, Japan, Dir: Kenji Mizoguchi

An ambitious potter (Masayuki Mori) and his devoted spouse (Kinuyo Tanaka) as well as a kindred couple (Eitaro Ozawa, Mitsuko Mito) are torn apart by the civil-war chaos of 16th-century Japan. Both men realize their material dreams but at a tragic cost to their respective mates. In particular, Mori’s shallow success is reflected in his delirious romance with a ghostly noblewoman (Machiko Kyo), an affair that will drive him to the brink of madness. One of the most poignant evocations of the illusory nature of worldly desires and missed opportunities and one of the most haunting depictions of the supernatural ever committed to celluloid. Winner of the 1953 Venice Film Festival Silver Lion Award. “If poetry is manifest in each second, each shot filmed by Mizoguchi, it is because…it is the instinctive reflection of the filmmaker’s creative nobility. … The director of UGETSU MONOGATARI can describe an adventure which is at the same time a cosmogony.” – Jean-Luc Godard.

1954, Janus Films, 120 min, Japan, Dir: Kenji Mizoguchi

In medieval Japan, a noble family is splintered when the father, the compassionate provincial governor, is exiled. The mother is sold into prostitution and the son and daughter shipped to the slave labor camp of oppressive Sansho the Bailiff (Eitaro Shindo). Kinuyo Tanaka, Kyoko Kagawa, Akitake Kono, Noriko Tachibana and Yoshiaki Hanayanagi all turn in splendid performances, perfectly embodying the slow grind of degradation and ultimately the transcendence of suffering as time passes. One of Mizoguchi’s most enduring classics. In Japanese with English subtitles.

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