When Americans talk about Japanese cinema, they usually only mention Kurosawa or Ozu. Just like in French cinema people talk about Truffaut or Godard, they often forget Dimitri Kirsanoff or Robert Bresson. Mizoguchi is the Japanese Bresson. He will depress you. And personally, I think he’s a better visual artist than Kurosawa. Mizoguchi’s composition and camera moves are poetry. Ok, that’s not fair. They are different kinds of artists. It’s like comparing Egon Schiele and Marc Chagall. They both used paint, but didn’t make the same pictures.
This isn’t a dig at Kurosawa, he’s a master and deserves his accolades. But there’s more to classic Japanese cinema than The 7 Samurai or violent animated tentacle porn. I learned of Mizoguchi through my research on Tarkovsky. Andrei loved Mizoguchi and Bresson. This guy has a lot of films, and I certainly haven’t seen them all (c’mon, I’ve got a lot of tentacle porn taking up my time).
Mizoguchi made a lot of films about suffering women. Not in a misogynist way, but he showed how women invariably get the short end of the stick (no, not what you’re thinking you sickos).