Sunday, February 28, 2010

120. Zangiku monogatari/The Story of the Late Chrysanthemums (1939)

Running Time: 142 minutes
Directed By: Kenji Mizoguchi
Written By: Matsutaro Kawaguchi, Yoshikata Yoda, from novel by Shofu Muramatsu
Main Cast: Shotaro Hanayagi, Kakuko Mori

A FANTASTIC, JAPANESE LOVE STORY

I'll admit that I had my doubts about how this movie would strike me and while my knowledge of Asian cinema isn't that vast, this was a great picture to start adding to that knowledge. "The Story of the Late Chrysanthemums", was a really depressing, heartbreaking love story and it really hits the emotional button with extra force.

Kikunosuke is the son of the legendary Japanese actor named Kikugoro, and is also an actor himself, staging performances in the city of Tokyo. Kiku (his shortened name in the film) eventually comes to the realization, that while his fellow actors and even his father praise him behind his back, when he's not around they complain about how terrible he is. While Kiku suspects this, he is never given a straight answer by anyone, due to the fact that he is the son of Kikugoro. One evening, while riding home after a performance, Kiku runs into Otoku, his baby brother's nursemaid. Otoku tells him that she went to see one of his performances, and while being careful not to offend him, tells it to him straight...that he's just not that good. He praises her for her honesty and tells her that because someone finally laid out the truth to him, that he will use it as inspiration to get better. After Otoku's show of honesty, Kiku becomes very close with the nursemaid, eventhough the rest of the family frowns upon fraternizing with her. When the two are caught alone in the house together, eating watermelon nonchalantly, Otoku is fired.

In rebellion against Otoku being let go, Kiku leaves his father's home, vowing never to return unless Otoku is welcome. Eventually Kiku finds himself on a train to Osaka, and while he tried to take Otoku with him, the families of the two lovers stepped in and kept her from going. Kiku takes a job as an actor in Osaka, and realizes on his own that he hasn't improved, especially without the honest criticisms of Otoku. However, Otoku tracks down Kiku in Osaka and the two are reunited and happy as ever, despite living in squalor. Some time passes and the show that Kiku is working on in Osaka is shut down and Kiku is forced to take an acting job with a traveling troupe of actors. Four years pass and the couple are still together, living in even more poverty, with Otoku's health on the decline. Despite a few slight quarrels, the couple stick together through thick and thin. However, the traveling troupe of actors are soon shut down as well, and the couple are forced to take refuge in a shelter. In a last ditch effort to make everything right for Kiku, Otoku travels to see an old friend and beg him to get Kiku a job in a role in a big stage play that is being put on. If Kiku can impress the audience, then he'll get the chance to return to Tokyo and become a world renowned actor. However, if Kiku does return to Tokyo, Otoku must take a vow to let him go alone, so that he may reconcile his differences with his father.

This movie is really a downer and it's ironic that this great cinematic love story is being played out in such a depressing film. The love that Kiku and Otoku share for one another is a beautiful thing and really highlighted by Mizoguchi. However, every time the couple seem to catch a break, it always ends badly and they find themselves right back at square one. Even the climax is a heartbreaking one and despite all of the sadness that this movie contains, it's still a really beautiful film, both visually and emotionally. I've always loved the setting of the orient in films, as I feel that it's a really photogenic country, that usually seems to give off some fantastic shots and wonderful backdrops. The Japanese culture is always one that I've felt that I could really fit into and having a film set there, really appeals to me. Anyway, I'm getting off on a rant here, but "The Story of the Late Chrysanthemums", despite its depressing tone, is still an enjoyable picture and something that I would really recommend to anyone.

RATING: 7.5/10 That's another rating that I could definitely see climbing as time passes, and don't be surprised if this shows up on the next "TOP" list, with a higher, revised rating.

NEXT UP: Babes in Arms...A Busby Berkeley musical...sounds allright to me. I'll be getting to this one, and the film that follows this one tomorrow, so be on the lookout boys and girls.

February 28, 2010 2:13am



3 comments:

  1. I'm a big fan of Mizoguchi's Ugetsu & Sansho the Bailiff, his 2 most famous films, which I'm guessing are on the list as well. Not a lot of his stuff is on dvd.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah there's a total of three Mizoguchi films in the book and those are the other two.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have only just managed to get to see this,but well worth the wait.
    Ray

    ReplyDelete

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