The Versatile Artistry of Japan’s Most Revered Cinematographer

Inside Criterion / On the Channel — May 17, 2019


The golden age of Japanese cinema would not have been the same without visionary cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, as the Criterion Channel’s now-streaming retrospective attests. Miyagawa, who over the course of his fifty-year career shot more than 130 films, brought his painterly eye to many of his country’s halcyon works of the 1950s, helping filmmakers such as Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, and Kon Ichikawa express their respective sensibilities on-screen. In the video above, one of Miyagawa’s biggest fans—John Bailey, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and an acclaimed cinematographer in his own right—pays tribute to the astonishing range and adaptability of his talent. Here, Bailey compares the “revolutionary” photography of Kurosawa’s kinetic, high-contrast Rashomon with Miyagawa’s more muted and dreamlike approach to Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu, nodding finally to some of the Ichikawa films (Odd Obsession, Conflagration, Tokyo Olympiad) that took the cinematographer into more expressionist and technologically sophisticated territory. To explore the riches in our thirteen-film retrospective, simply click here.