Tag Archives: Kenji Mizoguchi

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Kuroneko

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Kuroneko

I dislike cats.  I’m aware that many filmmakers have the same lack of appreciation for the beasts with 9 lives. Cat’s Eye, Pet Sematary, The Black Cat, The Cat People, even A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 all feature these ferocious felines.

It was with much trepidation (not really) that I sat to watch today’s film.  I knew that I would likely have an experience of shock simply from the subject matter alone.  I braved my fears, however, and happily accessed my Hulu+ account to view this classic of Japanese horror.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Yabu No Naka No Kuroneko “Kuroneko”

Kuroneko posterDirector: Kaneto Shindou
Year: 1968
Cast: Kichiemon Nakamura, Nobuko Otowa, Kei Satou
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 99 mins. / Black and White / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: NR
Rating: ★★★ / C

After being brutally raped and murdered by a gang of wandering samurai, a woman and her daughter return from the grave to haunt and kill them.

What odd choices of filmmaking, such as random jump cuts, unmotivated images of a black cat, disjointed jumping of the plane, cuts of ghosts and fallen samurai bodies out of nowhere, and the continual bamboo forest immersed in a dense fog imagery.

Some of the visuals were haunting, however.  The women with their painted on eyebrows, floating in their white kimono, amidst the secluded cabin in the woods, certainly ought to be enough to hold the interest of many aficionado’s of horror.  Sadly, I found the aforementioned problems too problematic to be saved by the later interesting elements.

It simply didn’t rise above anything other than average.  Certainly not after watching the superior Onibaba.  Thankfully, however, it’s not as bewildering as House.

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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Movies


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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba

I’ve long been a fan of Japanese cinema. Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Kon Ichikawa, and my favorite, Yasujiro Ozu, are masters of cinema few western audiences have seen. Amazingly, other than the run of horror movies that came from the land of the rising sun a few years back, such as Ringu and Ju On, I wasn’t familiar with any other in that genre.

Thankfully, a recent trip to the video store, and my viewing of their Criterion collection they have near the back of the store, I came across a few films considered to be classics in the J-horror genre.

With this new knowledge, I followed up my visit by searching both Hulu and Netflix for other films originating from the land famous for samurai, geisha, and ninja.

Happily, today’s film was one of the films featured on Hulu+ Criterion Collection. Without hesitation, I pressed play on my tiny appleTV remote, and took in the surprise that was today’s entry.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba

Director: Kaneto Shindou
Year: 1965
Cast: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satou
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 103 mins. / Black and White / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: NR
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

I wasn’t sure how this film was considered a horror film for most of the film. I felt more like a revenge picture, and an excellently crafted one at that. However, [SPOILER]…

I was completely blown away by the twist near the end of the film that confirmed this to indeed be a horror film. The mastery that Shindou displayed on bringing together this morality tale was superb, and worthy of all the praise I’ve since read up on for this film.

It was shocking to see such graphic sensuality, given the year the film was made. Certainly not a film I’d be able to show in my film appreciation class without a major disclaimer.

The cinematography is simply amazing. The waves in the grass, the use of shadows, and the framing of each scene is a marvel to see. The acting is equally as impressive. This is not your over-the-top theatrics found in many other films of that same era. Instead we are witness to the depravity of war, and the loneliness of seclusion, in a manner that is completely engrossing.

I will never feel the same way when I am faced with the choice of the shortcut through the grassy field or the long dirt path around it. I certainly will be needing a proper foot cleansing after such a proposition presents itself.

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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Movies


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20 Films Remade by the Original Directors Pt.7

It’s hard to believe that today marks 28 of the 40 films that I am writing about in this 10 part blog!  I am beginning to think, based on my reviews of these first 14 films and their remakes, that the remakes of “The Fly” and “13 Tzameti” by original directors David Cronenberg and Géla Babluani, respectively, have a 50% chance of being better.  That is far better than I would have expected.

How will the last few days pan out?  Will the pendulum swing one way or the other?  Or will Lady Justice’s scales remain evened out?  Read on to find out in…

“Remaking the Tinsel in Tinseltown”


“20 Films Remade by the Original Directors”

Part VII

Remake #13

~Director: Kenji Mizoguchi~

Original Film: Sisters of the Gion – “Gion no shimai”
Year: 1936
Cast: Isuzu Yamada, Yoko Umemura, Benkei Shiganoya, Fumio Okura
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 69 mins / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1

A wonderful story of two sisters who are Geisha’s, one a man-hating, conniving, lying woman, the other a matured ready to settle down woman.  This black and white Japanese film is amongst the best, with it’s excellent story and acting to boot.  The wickedness of the younger sister is so believable, you want to reach through the screen and slap her.  The deceptions she goes through are so engrossing, the broken hearts of the men so saddening, that you soon realize Mizoguchi accomplished something years before multifaceted tales of deception such as “Fargo”, “Magnolia” or “Crash” did.  The way he interweaves the stories is simply astounding.

The film is about prostitutes, so children may not be suitable to see this film.  However, it is a true masterpiece from one of Japan’s early filmmakers.

My Rating: ***** / A-

Remake Film: A Geisha – “Gion Bayashi”
Year: 1953
Cast: Michiyo Kogure, Ayako Wakao, Seizaburo Kawazu
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 85 mins / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1

This biting tale of Geisha’s in postwar Japan is a sad tale of a young girl who, out of necessity, becomes a Geisha thinking it a position of respect and beauty.  She soon learns that it is nothing more than a second class glamorized prostitute, and her house “mom” is nothing more than a Madame.

While billed as a remake of Mizoguchi’s earlier “Sisters of the Gion”, little resemblance is made to that earlier film, other than both focus on the sad life of a Geisha and both are in Black and White.  A wonderful film that is moving and educational at the same time, with simply beautiful cinematography.

An attempted rape scene is the most disturbing scene in the film, and truly shows the horrors that women in Japan suffered under the guise of entertainers.  Truly a remarkable film from a talented director.

My Rating: ***** / A

Remake #14

~Director: Leo McCarey~

Original Film: Love Affair
Year: 1939
Cast: Charles Boyer, Irene Dunne
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 88 mins / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1

An entertaining film that has a story too far fetched to believe.  An engaged American woman meets a playboy foreign celebrity man on a cruise ship, where they engage in a love affair.  Days later, they end the cruise with a promise to meet on top of the Empire State Bldg. in 6 months if they are both single.  Surprise, they are, and surprise, they both attempt to meet.  After a car accident cripples the woman, she runs away to Europe, where 6 months later they meet again in a movie theater (all the while they both pine away for each other) and reconnect.

The film does have heart tugging moments, and the acting is very well done.  In fact, the chemistry between the two is spot on.  It’s simply the story that knocks this film down a few notches on my scale.

My Rating: *** / C

Remake Film: An Affair to Remember
Year: 1957
Cast: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 119 mins / Color / OAR 2.35:1 – Cinemascope

This almost identical remake to “Love Affair” improves every so slightly by casting two wonderful actors in Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, and filming it in beautiful color and Cinemascope.  Much better performances than the already well acted original helped flush out the characters a bit more, adding a little depth to the decisions they make.  Still, however, the story is a little unbelievable, with the whole premise being a bit immature and far fetched at best.  As with the original, the musical segments seem a little out of place, as though they were inserted to add length to the film, or to capitalize on the musical craze throughout films of that era.

Regardless, the film is an entertaining film.  Historically speaking, it’s nice to see a film that received so many accolades from the Academy of that year.

My Rating: *** / C+

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Posted by on June 1, 2010 in Movies


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