The rise and fall of a singer Yoshio Fujimura. Fujimura entertains the lower class passengers on the ship home from Europe, and is traveling with Ayako, a maid who had fallen in love with ...
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A classic melodramatic love tragedy addressing social inequality in feudal Japan, depicted in Kenji Mizoguchi's typical style. The nostalgic scenes of 1920s Tokyo provides a valuable visual... See full summary »
The rise and fall of a singer Yoshio Fujimura. Fujimura entertains the lower class passengers on the ship home from Europe, and is traveling with Ayako, a maid who had fallen in love with him. On their arrival in Japan, a society woman, Natsue Omura, who is meeting a famous tenor from the first class, is attracted to Fujimura. Natsue introduces Fujimura to an agent and, under his guidance, sings the song "Furusato" which becomes a hit. As he becomes famous, Fujimura ignores Ayako and lives the high life with Natsue and her society friends.Written by
Before we were shown this film at the Museum of Modern Art this evening, it was described as Mizoguchi's first sound film. All too soon, however, it became apparent it was not a sound film, but a part-talky, with a synchronized score of largely western music for the silent sequences. At the end, however, the score concluded with a version of Rodgers & Hart's "Falling in Love With Love". This song was introduced in the 1938 production of THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE. The version of the movie we saw was a compilation of sequences from the sound and silent versions of the original movie, produced a significant length of time later.
Therefore it does not reflect the intentions of the movie makers at the time they originally made it. Drawing conclusions about the excellence of the movie by contemporary and modern standards is impossible because I didn't see the movie. Its value in the documentation of the evolution of Mizoguchi and Japanese cinema is about as great as using six random petrified bones from a dig to draw conclusions on the dinosaur's sexual habits and skin color. I would require the original movie to come to conclusions. Anything else is speculation. Even though a lot of "serious" film criticism seems to be talking about what someone wrote about what someone said about some one who actually saw a different movie by the same film maker -- or perhaps the film maker's brother -- I don't do that.
Bear with me while I pour myself a drink.
The plot of the movie is as described in the IMDb. It's a fairly standard sort of plot from various national cinemas and it's interesting that the choice of the male lead is Yoshie Fujiwara, whose father was English, even though the character -- and the actor -- were thoroughly Japanese. Although the nominal highlights of the film are his singing in the sound sequences -- and you can tell the sound sections because you can see the actors' breaths -- most of the acting is by those around him. Shizue Natsukawa plays his semi-abandoned wife and notice the way she is shot.
While the camera moves constantly and edgily in sequences she is not present in --there is a silent party sequence which I thought borrowed heavily from the Folies Bergere sequence in WINGS -- when Miss Natsukawa is one of the subjects, the camera stops and we are treated to some fine portrait work. The implication is that motion and change are constant, but that Miss Natsukawa suffers and endures. It's an interesting technique, although it's impossible to tell if this is how the movie was originally released.
The version I saw offers no satisfactory answers to any of the questions I ask when I see a movie. I cannot even speculate satisfactorily based on other movies Mizoguchi directed about this time; as far as what's available to someone living in New York today, he might as well have sprung out of the earth just in time to direct THE FORTY-SEVEN RONIN. If you're trying to make appraisals of this movie and its place in Mizoguchi's career, you will be frustrated.
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