Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sisters of the Gion (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1936)


Between Osaka Elegy and this singularly elegant indictment of a society that suffocates women with tradition and discourages them from pragmatism, 1936 was the year that Kenji Mizoguchi came into his feminist, visually ravishing own (or so we are led to assume, since few of his earlier films have survived). The matchless Isuzu Yamada plays the younger and more proactive of two geisha sisters battling to secure patronage and a comfortable lifestyle in a tainted Tokyo district. Mizoguchi's compositions are as evocative as they are innovative and Yamada's plucky anti-heroine is among the most engaging and fully realised movie portraits of Japanese womanhood.

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Sleuth (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1972)


In an enormous Tudor mansion swarming with kitsch, Laurence Olivier is let loose in a mine-is-bigger-than-yours competition with his wife's younger lover, Michael Caine. You won't be surprised to find the piece was originally written for the stage, but you might be surprised to discover two acting giants regularly and, at times, hideously misjudging their performances. It gets exhausting about 20 minutes in, and it runs well over two hours.

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