Oyu-sama (1951)

18 05 2008

It’s possible that I’m becoming a bit burnt out with Mizoguchi, but this is definitely one of the lesser works I’ve seen from him in awhile. It has its fair share of merits, such as the usually great cinematography, but ultimately the drama is too silly to want to take seriously. This is almost a completely conventional (and uninteresting) Hollywood melodrama that is formed around a narrative that sounds like something from a Hollywood screwball comedy. Don’t get me wrong, this is far from being bad, but Mizoguchi has done this type of film many times and with better results.

Shinnosuke is introduced to Shizu, as a proposed marriage. He thinks he will have no problem falling in love with her but there is one problem, he mistakes Shizu for her sister, Oyu. Oyu is now a widow which seems to give Shinnosuke a chance, but law requires her to tend to the child, thus forbidding a re-marriage. As a reaction, Shinnosuke marries Shizu but spends all of his time with Oyu. At first, Shizu is okay with this progressive type of marriage, but Shinnosuke begins to feel bad Shizu and his attempts at loving his own wife are, ironically enough, resisted.

In some ways, this story anticipates a similar type of marriage in Naruse’s Repast. In that film, Hara decides to continue her marriage based on a mutual respect, rather than love. Such a hopeful idea is harshly treated here. In retrospect, it is sort of reactionary on Mizoguchi’s part to create the “other side” of these complicated marriages. He was vocal about his distaste for Naruse, though it mostly came from social issues. In any case, where Naruse’s film is nuanced and almost deadpan, Mizoguchi’s is over the top and silly. Of course, there’s enough visual “power” for him to rely on but dramatically speaking, this is one of his lesser efforts. Thankfully, he pulled off many similar films much more naturally in the 50s: Uwasa no onna and Gion Bayashi both come to mind. Watch those films, not this one.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)

18 05 2008

Definitely one of the best “angry young man” / “kitchen sink drama” films I’ve seen. Despite the revolutionary attitude of many British filmmakers during the period, this is actually quite aesthetically tame, especially when compared to the important works of the other “new waves.” However, this is also far more nuanced than most of these films. While there’s plenty of dated “rebel” stuff that dates the film, there is just as many timeless moments of truth.

Arthur slaves the whole week at his factory job, and then uses the money he earns from said job, to get trashed on the weekends. He gets in fights, antagonizes civilians, and participates in an affair with his boss’ wife, Brenda. He also meets Dordeen and immediately becomes infatuated with her. He claims to love her, and to do so in a way that he he hasn’t before. The feeling is mutual, but Dordeen is also interested in getting married, settling down, and starting a family. In other words, become everything Arthur doesn’t want to become.

It’s probably best to eliminate all the overused adjectives that have defined the “angry young man” genre. “Gritty” and “tough” seem like gross exaggerations for a film such as this. Sure, our protagonist gets drunk a lot, falls down stairs, talks the women he’s having an affair with into an abortion but other than narrative points, this is pretty formalistic. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but there’s many sequences that feel almost directly lifted from a theatrical performance. Still, this very controlled sensibility really fleshes the characters out in a manner that is not unlike the characters in Hong Sang-Soo’s films. Certainly, there’s more of a plot, so to speak, in this film, but it is a fairly well-composed human study that thankfully doesn’t in melodramatic tragedy like one might expect. Instead, we’re treated to a very open-ended finale reminiscent of the much more famous final shot in The Graduate. A fabulous film here, that is so much more mature than its marketing campaign would lead you to believe.