Eureka! Entertainment to release ‘LATE MIZOGUCHI: EIGHT FILMS, 1951–1956’, Eight masterpieces compiled together on 1080p Blu-ray for the first time, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series on 21 October, 2013

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Eureka! Entertainment have announced the release of LATE MIZOGUCHI: EIGHT FILMS, 1951–1956Eight masterpieces compiled together on 1080p Blu-ray for the first time will be released as part of The Masters of Cinema Series on 21 October 2013.

Kenji Mizoguchi looms over the history not only of Japanese cinema — but of world cinema altogether. These eight films from the last decade of Mizoguchi’s career represent a collection of eight of his greatest works, which is to say, eight of the greatest films ever made.

Oyû-sama (1951) is an adapatation of Tanizaki Jun’ichirô: a poignant tale of two sisters and their ill-fated relationship with the same man: a tale of the social mores and affairs of the heart that might destroy siblings.

Ugetsu monogatari (1953), a ghost-tale par excellence and one of the most highly acclaimed works of the cinema, is an intensely poetic, sublimely lyrical tragedy of men lured away from their wives which consistently features on polls of the best films ever made.

Gion bayashi (1953) is a drama set in the world of the geisha, a subtle masterwork that yields a myriad of insights into the lives of Japan’s “service-class” in the early ’50s.

Sanshô dayû (1954), aka Sanshô the Bailiff, recounts an unforgettably sad story of the 11th century involving kidnapping and indentured servitude — and figures, again, with its exquisite tone and purity of emotion as one of the most critically revered films of any era.

Uwasa no onna (1954), another Mizoguchi picture set in a modern geisha house, pits mother against daughter, with the ensuing drama forcing both to confront their attitudes toward family and business in what is one of the filmmaker’s most astute filmic examinations of oppressed femininity.

Chikamatsu monogatari (1954), aka The Crucified Lovers, is the tragic story of a forbidden love affair between a merchant’s wife and her husband’s employee, was hailed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa as “a great masterpiece that could only have been made by Mizoguchi.”

Yôkihi (1955), aka The Princess Yang Kwei-fei, recounts an 8th-century Chinese story of a widowed emperor and his imperial concubine, filmed in sumptuous, hallucinatory Agfa-stock colour.

Akasen chitai (1956), aka Street of Shame, is Mizoguchi’s final masterpiece and one of the greatest last films ever made, depicting the goings-on in a Tokyo brothel carrying the name “Dreamland,” where dreams are nevertheless shattered beneath the weight of financial necessity and all questions of conscience — a last testament which inspired the great 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 the cinema.”

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SPECIAL FEATURES:

• New high-definition 1080p transfers of all eight films

• Optional English subtitles

• Tony Rayns video discussions on each of the eight films

• Original trailers

• Approximately 200 illustrated pages of booklet material compiled together

• The first time Chikamatsu monogatari, Uwasa no onna, Akasen chitai, and Yôkihi have appeared on Blu-ray anywhere in the world

• Limited Edition of only 2000 copies

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SYNOPSES:

UGETSU MONOGATARI [TALES OF THE RAIN AND MOON] [aka: UGETSU] | Kenji Mizoguchi | 1953 | Japan | 97 minutes 

“One of the greatest of all films.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari [Tales of the Rain and Moon, aka Ugetsu] is a highly acclaimed masterwork of Japanese cinema. Based on a pair of 18th century ghost stories by Ueda Akinari, the film’s release continued Mizoguchi’s introduction to the West, where it was nominated for an Oscar and won the the Venice Film Festival’s Silver Lion award (for Best Direction).

In 16th century Japan, amidst the pandemonium of civil war, potter Genjūrō (Mori Masayuki) and samurai-aspirant Tobei (Ozawa Sakae) set out with their wives in search of wealth and military glory respectively. Two parallel tales ensue when the men are lured from their wives: Genjūrō by the ghostly charm of Lady Wakasa (Kyo Machiko); Tobei by the dream of military glory.

Famed for its meticulously orchestrated long takes and its subtle blending of realistic period reconstruction and lyrical supernaturalism, Ugetsu Monogatari is an intensely poetic tragedy that consistently features on polls of the best films ever made.

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OYU SAMA [LADY OYU] [aka: MISS OYU] | Kenji Mizoguchi | 1951 | Japan | 94 minutes

Mizoguchi’s Oyu-sama [Miss Oyu] is a poignant and contemplative tale of two sisters and their ill-fated relationship with the same man. At the core is Mizoguchi-regular Tanaka Kinuyo (who also stars in Ugetsu Monogatari) as the eponymous Oyu, the older sister who allows marital customs to dictate the lives of those caught up in this complex love triangle.

Continuing the director’s fascination with the relationship between affairs of the heart and the social mores that shape and sometimes destroy them, Mizoguchi transforms his subject matter into the realm of the transcendental through the use of long, mobile shots – an approach that reaches its apotheosis in a take of almost six minutes – infused with humanity and emotion.

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SANSHO DAYU [SANSHO THE STEWARD] [aka: SANSHO THE BAILIFF] | Kenji Mizoguchi | 1954 | Japan | 125 minutes 

“an exceptional film, telling its complicated story in simple images, and creating order from the worst kind of moral chaos.” – Anton Bitel, Film 4

Based on an ancient legend, as recounted by celebrated author Mori Ōgai (in his short story of the same name, written in 1915), and adapted by Mizoguchi, Sanshō Dayū [Sanshō the Steward, aka Sanshō the Bailiff] is both distinctively Japanese and as deeply affecting as a Greek tragedy. Described in its opening title as “one of the oldest and most tragic in Japan’s history”, Mizoguchi depicts an unforgettably sad story of social injustice, family love, and personal sacrifice – all conveyed with exquisite tone and purity of emotion.

Set in Heian era (11th century) Japan, it follows an aristocratic woman, Tamaki (played by Tanaka Kinuyo, who also stars in Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari), and her two children, Zushiō (Hanayagi Yoshiaki) and Anju (Kagawa Kyōko), who are separated by feudal tyranny from Tamaki’s husband. When the children are kidnapped and sold into slavery to the eponymous “Sansho” (Shindō Eitarō), the lives of each of the family members follow very different paths – each course uniquely, and insufferably, tragic.

Famed for its period reconstructions and powerful imagery, often through the director’s trademark long takes, Sanshō Dayū is one of the most critically revered of all of japanese cinema – a Venice Film Festival Silver Lion winner that often appears in lists of the greatest films ever made.

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GION BAYASHI [GION FESTIVAL MUSIC] [aka: A GEISHA] | Kenji Mizoguchi | 1953 | Japan | 85 minutes 

Gion Bayashi is a drama set in the world of the courtesan, contrasting two different types of geisha – on one hand, Eiko (Wakao Ayako), a sixteen-year old orphan who wishes to be taken in and trained; on the other, Miyoharu (Kogure Michiyo), an older, more experienced geisha, who agrees to mentor the younger woman – living under the same roof in difficult personal circumstances. A fascinating, subtle insight into the lives of these women in 1950s Japan.

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CHIKAMATSU MONOGATARI [A TALE FROM CHIKAMATSU] [aka: THE CRUCIFIED LOVERS] | Kenji Mizoguchi | 1954 | Japan | 107 minutes

Based on a centuries old tale with roots in real events, Chikamatsu monogatari [A Tale From Chikamatsu, aka The Crucified Lovers] tells the hauntingly tragic story of a forbidden love affair between a merchant’s wife, Osan (Kyoko Kagawa), and her husband’s employee, Mohei (Kazuo Hasegawa), in an era when the punishment for adultery was crucifixion.

When a series of innocent events lead to the false accusation of an affair between Osan and Mohei, the accused pair are forced to flee an almost certain death sentence. On the run, the outlaw couple grow closer together, drawn inexorably towards the romantic crime of which they are accused.

In the hands of Mizoguchi, Chikamatsu Mmnogatari depicts two people caught up in a constricted world where true love and social obligation are at odds. His portrayal of the lovers’ dilemma lead famed director Akira Kurosawa to describe the film as “a great masterpiece that could only have been made by Mizoguchi.”

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UWASA NO ONNA [THE WOMAN IN THE RUMOUR] | Kenji Mizoguchi | 1954 | Japan | 89 minutes

Released the same year as Chikamatsu monogatariUwasa no onna [The Woman in the Rumour] offers a contrasting portrait of attitudes and mores concerning love and relationships. Set in a modern Kyoto geisha house, the eponymous woman in the rumour is Hatsuko (Kinuyo Tanaka, star of countless Mizoguchi films, including The Life of Oharu, in her last role for the director with whom she was often romantically linked), madame of her own geisha house. When Hatsuko ends up pursuing the same man as her daughter, Yukiko (Yoshiko Kuga), both women are forced to confront their attitudes towards each other and the family business.

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AKASEN CHITAI [RED-LIGHT DISTRICT] [aka: STREET OF SHAME] | Kenji Mizoguchi | 1956 | Japan | 89 minutes

“Of all the films about prostitution, Kenji Mizoguchi’s Street of Shame, made in 1956 at the end of his career, is perhaps the greatest.” – David Denby, New Yorker

Akasen chitai [Red Light District, aka Street of Shame] – sadly, the very last film by Kenji Mizoguchi – 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”. 

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YÔKIHI [IMPERIAL CONCUBINE YANG] [aka: THE PRINCESS YANG KWEI-FEI] | Kenji Mizoguchi | 1955 | Japan | 96 minutes

Set many centuries ago, Yôkihi [Imperial Concubine Yang, aka The Princess 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 Kyô), 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, Yôkihi 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.

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Release Date: 21 October, 2013

Pre-order Now (click link to buy):

Late Mizoguchi LTD EDITION BLU-RAY BOX SET (Masters of Cinema) (BLU-RAY)

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