Kenji Mizoguchi and an analysis of his film Ugetsu

Essay by kdagreenUniversity, Bachelor'sA, September 2002

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Kenji Mizoguchi and Ugetsu:

A Woman's Magical Touch

A work of unsurpassed lyricism and emotional power, Ugetsu is considered by many to be Kenji Mizoguchi's masterpiece, and is frequently cited as one of the greatest films ever made. Mizoguchi, with Ozu and Kurosawa one of the three undisputed masters from the golden age of Japanese cinema , was born in 1898 in the middle class district of Hongo, in Tokyo. Kenji Mizoguchi grew up in poverty, watched his father abuse his mother and sister, and witnessed his sister sold into prostitution. His work was inspired by that of Josef von Sternberg, which emphasized elaborate, complex compositions of great beauty. Yet, a sense of responsibility must have guided his career: He grew up to become an obsessive creator of poetic films about the struggles of women.

These characters and events from his youth--a sudden rise or fall in class; the oppressive or self-deluded male authority figure; the selfless, self-sacrificing woman who's ultimately destroyed--became the basis for his greatest works (

He depicted the role of women in maintaining an orderly world and redeeming men through unselfish love. It gives us a study in confrontation with the woman pitted against a man's world and lifts social concerns to a more universal plane. "He engages with his material on several levels of perception--realistic, aesthetic, religious, and mystical" (McDonald 116). There is a sense of the "Mizoguchi fervour, or intensity of feeling, and all dealing with women of the lower ranks of society, women who battle for survival, live instinctively, and sacrifice themselves for men" (Freiberg 8).

There is a patriarchal ideology inscribed in Japanese films that create a sacrificial female figure. "For Mizoguchi the rights of women are merely logical extensions of the rights of man" (Cohen 80). Yet with the...