review for Chikamatsu Monogatari on AllMovie

Chikamatsu Monogatari (1954)
by Jonathan Crow review

In the 1950s, Kenji Mizoguchi was on a roll. He won two successive Golden Lions at the Venice Film Festival -- an unprecedented feat -- and produced three unqualified masterpieces: Life of Oharu, Ugetsu, and Sansho Dayu. The Crucified Lovers, made the same year as Sansho, stands as Mizoguchi's last great film. For this film, he returns to familiar themes: avaricious, duplicitous men; pious, long-suffering women; and the cruel vagaries of fate. Unlike his previous postwar films, the lead male character, Mohei, does not seem consumed by greed, vengeance, or vanity. Yet compared to the purity and devotion of lead female -- a near constant in Mizoguchi's oeuvre -- Mohei still seems weak in comparison. The film unfolds with marvelous fluidity, gathering momentum until the lovers' gruesome end. The blissful smiles on the faces of Osan and Mohei as they are led to crucifixion is one of the most striking images in Mizoguchi's long catalogue. Technically, Mizoguchi fills this film with striking photography and elegant camera movement. Though perhaps lacking the lyricism of Ugetsu and the grandeur of Sansho Dayu, The Crucified Lovers is a breathtaking work.