Sunday, 25 June 2017

Ugetsu Monogatari & Sansho the Bailiff

Of all my cinematic regrets, few measure up to the bitterness I feel in being utterly detached from the filmography of Keji Mizoguchi. Revered as perhaps Japan’s finest master, that title often bearing a sentiment that undermines the ‘over-stylisation’ of Akira Kurosawa in favor of a more disciplined cinematic method- I have failed to find the Greatness in a single one of his films. From main-body classics like The Life of Oharu, Story of the Late Chrysanthemums, 47 Ronin, Street of Shame and many others, I am left lost as to his supposed genius. In a last-ditch effort to grasp the inspiring work of Kenji Mizoguchi, I re-watched his masterpieces. 1953’s Ugetsu Monogatari and ‘54’s Sansho the Bailiff. I saw both for the first time about 3 years ago, the former gentling nestling a place among the latter end of my Favorite movies for its freshness. Ugetsu was one of the very first Japanese movies I ever saw, along with Rashomon, and its magical elements enamored me beyond any bluntness in technique at that time. On the other hand, the hotly anticipated Sansho the Bailiff washed away after 2 hours with only regret in its wake. A film that in theory I should absolutely adore felt devoid of life and ultimately unengaging to the point of tedium.

The question underlying this story of cinematic disappointment is: Has there been a change? Growing personally and critically, do Ugetsu and Sansho click with me now in a way they never could years ago. Is it still too soon, or is this tantalizing event horizon of realization I so desperately aspire to never coming to pass? We shall see…