The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama, Period Film, Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 143 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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A mid-career masterpiece from the great Mizoguchi, whose focus on the mistreatment of women in Japanese society was filtered through the experience of his sister's prostitution, it's known in Japan as a shinpa tragedy, one concerned with a woman who endures her fate in tears. Here, the forbidden love between a young man from a powerful family of kabuki actors and a low-caste wet nurse forms the basis for one of the director's most moving works. When the talented but undisciplined young actor Shotaro Hanyagi is banished from the family for refusing to abandon the woman, on her advice, they leave their native Tokyo that he might perfect his technique, far from his family's influence. The first film that the director felt was truly his own, it employs the fluid sequence takes and crabbing, or diagonal tracking shots, of which he was one of the medium's masters. Forced to shoot the 40-year-old actor in long shots to make him appear younger for the earlier scenes, the director was so impressed by the detached, meditative quality they afforded, that they would become a mark of his style.