by Will Ross
In this series of posts, I’ll be describing my impressions and making personal observations, at first historical and then increasingly critical, as I view every extant film by Kenji Mizoguchi. I will be learning and writing as I watch, and may periodically come back to extend or update my earlier posts.
Acknowledging truth in Oyuki’s accusations, Okin grants mercy, and the soldier escapes, leaving the pair alone.
This romanticization of a woman’s assumed moral fealty to a man marks out a clear retort to those who would claim Mizoguchi as a proto-feminist filmmaker. Though I can’t be certain whether these elements were Mizoguchi’s idea, his collaborators', his studio’s, or the product of censorial fear (Mizoguchi had been the recent object of government surveillance for his socially progressive themes, a fact that frightened him), it’s clear that while at this point Mizoguchi had retained his sorrow at the unfair sacrifices that women make to support men, his storytelling had lost its disdain for patriarchal imbalance. But perhaps some of this impression comes from the emotional incoherence of the ending, which combines the plot contrivance and inorganic psychological behaviour that have dogged Mizoguchi’s films up to this point. Nonetheless, the concluding sequence is lovely in its simplicity and sorrow: a melancholic piece of music fills the soundtrack as the soldier departs on a boat in the distance, leaving the universally rejected pair isolated in the desolation of a bygone civilization.