The ongoing rediscovery of the multitude of masterworks that made up the career of Kenji Mizoguchi continues with the release of Eclipse Series 13: Kenji Mizoguchi’s Fallen Women. The set, writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times, “rescues four more films from relative obscurity and highlights the central theme in Mizoguchi’s work: the anguish of women in a society set up to exploit and enslave them.”
“From his earliest surviving films, like Tokyo March (1929) and The Water Magician (1933), this great Japanese filmmaker showed his dedication to those women driven to the margins of society—actresses, geishas, ordinary prostitutes—by the hypocrisy of men,” the New York Times’s Dave Kehr elaborates on the director. And on the box set: “All of his major creative phases are covered: the romantic, expressionist-tinged work of the silent and early sound periods; the politically engaged work of the postwar period, influenced by Italian neorealism; and the final creative surge of the 1950s, in which a distanced, contemplative tone conveys an infinite solicitude for human suffering, balanced by a sense of its insignificance in the cosmic order.”
In an article for UCLA’s Asia Pacific Arts, Rowena Aquino explains that part of the reason the films in this set were overshadowed is because of their contemporary setting: “No doubt Mizoguchi is most known for his period films,” particularly Ugetsu and Sansho the Bailiff. “With this in mind, the collection is significant because it represents the films he made that take place in the present.” It also nicely spans two periods of Japanese film history, she notes: “For some Japanese film history scholars, the 1930s mark the first ‘golden age’ of Japanese cinema, while the 1950s mark the second. The box set proves that Mizoguchi represents the best of both worlds.”
Update (17NOV08): Tirdad Derakhshani has a nice overview of the set, and Mizoguchi’s career, at the Philadelphia Inquirer.