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Chikamatsu monagatari / Crucified lovers (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954)

A printer is in love with his master's wife: When they are forced to elope through a series of unfortunate events, their romance is deemed.

I enjoyed the move thoroughly. What seems a bland a beginning quickly turns to an amour-fou situation. The fugitive lovers are being chased by various factions, but mainly to restore the printer's reputation.

The two lovers are depicted as irrational in most of their decisions, and also quite stupid. They don't seem to be able to see beyond the confines of the system they are trying to break out of. That's why their pursuers have an easy time of tracking them down. Actually, most of the sub-plots would have allowed the lovers to escape, but in every single case they chose not to do it. So at the end, all they have left is to bare the consequences of their actions and be proud of them.

There is a bit of a strange moment in the end, when the servants comment on the happy air of her former mistress. Maybe Mizoguchi wanted to underline his humanistic approach to this story. I had the feeling that the original tale is more of a sharp criticism at the rigidity of Japan's intertwining of moral and societal norms at the time (but haven't read it).

There is also one character, the servant O-Tama, who is willing to give her reputation to save Oheimi with whom she's overtly in love with. Her demise is told in a few little scenes on the side. She is the inciting character to the tragedy, but, unfortunately she is not featured largely in the rest of the movie. I also had the feeling that Mizoguchi mostly shot her from the back, to not establish her character too strongly for the audience.


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