Patterns of Time: Mizoguchi and the 1930s
Although Kenji Mizoguchi is one of the three most important Japanese directors (along with Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa), there has been no systematic critical study of his work in English. Correcting this omission, Donald Kirihara examines in extraordinary detail the brilliant early works of one of the world's great film directors, offering a sensitive analysis of his career.
The book targets a key phase of Mizoguchi's career, the 1930s. It was in that period that conditions within the Japanese film industry allowed Mizoguchi more freedom to experiment with film style and narrative structure. Kirihara analyzes the formal and stylistic components of four of Mizoguchi's films, The Downfall of Osen (1935), Naniwa Elegy (1936), Sisters of the Gion (1936), and The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (1939), while considering the historical context in which they were produced and consumed.
Using scores of frame enlargements, drawing from a variety of historical sources, and integrating concepts from contemporary film theory, Kirihara proposes a new way of understanding Mizoguchi's films, arguing that at the heart of Mizoguchi's brilliance as a filmmaker is an obsessive need to challenge spectators, implicating them in the production of meaning through the dynamic manipulation of spatio-temporal relations. The result is a film style that self-consciously leads, frustrates, and surprises.
Kirihara's exploration of Mizoguchi within his national and cultural context marks a new step forward in the integration of film theory, historical research, and auteur criticism. He offers what are likely to remain the definitive readings of these four films.
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action actors American films angle artistic artwork Asai Ayako background benshi Burch Cahiers du cinema camera movement causal characters classical companies critics culture David Bordwell devices diegetic dominant Downfall of Osen E. H. Gombrich earlier editing effect fabula fabula-syuzhet film's flashbacks foreground foreign films frame function Furusawa gaps geisha Gion Hollywood important internal Japa Japan Japanese cinema Japanese film Japanese filmmakers Jurakudo kabuki Kenji Mizoguchi Kiku Kiku's Kumazawa Last Chrysanthemum long shot long takes ment mise-en-scene Mizo Mizoguchi's films modern motion picture move movie Mukafovsky Naniwa Elegy narration narration's narrative nese Nikkatsu Nishimura norms offscreen Omocha Osaka Osen's Otoku parallel pattern performance popular Princeton production scene screen seen self-conscious sequence shimpa Shochiku Sisters Sokichi space stage Sternberg story strategies structure studios style stylistic syuzhet Tadao Sato temporal theater tion Tokyo traditions Umekichi viewer Western Yoda