Search Museum of the Moving Image


May 2 — Jun 8, 2014

Organized by Chief Curator David Schwartz and Assistant Film Curator Aliza Ma

Although Kenji Mizoguchi is widely regarded as one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, screenings of his movies are rare. He made more than 80 films; yet less than half of these survive, and fewer than ten are readily available in the United States. In the early 1990s, critic David Thomson worried about the fate of Mizoguchi’s work, writing “this is a greatness that could one day soon be lost. By 2010, will it be possible to see these films on the screen they deserve?” So now, in 2014, Moving Image is pleased to present the most extensive Mizoguchi retrospective and the first New York retrospective in nearly 20 years. Here is a once-in-a-generation chance to experience such acknowledged masterpieces as Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff, The Life of Oharu, Sisters of the Gion, Street of Shame, and Utamaro and His Five Women, along with such rare films that will be revelations to new viewers, including Miss Oyu, A Woman of Rumor, Portrait of Madame Yuki, and My Love Has Been Burning.

The core of Mizoguchi’s greatness is his use of the medium to convey a profound world view, one that moves between social commentary, a deep feeling for tragedy and romance, and a transcendent sense of man’s—and woman’s—place in the cosmos. The plight of women in a restrictive society is a recurring theme in his films, and many of his films are melodramas about the clash between women’s desires and the restrictions of social tradition. Mizoguchi, whose masterful use of tracking shots and compositions that move between close-ups and tableaus, always viewed his deeply human dramas with a cosmic perspective. No director made movies that were so intensely emotional without being overly sentimental, and movies that were so rigorous in their portrayal of the social order, yet so profoundly in touch with the human experience. 

View series trailer.  

Mizoguchi is co-presented with the Japan Foundation, with special thanks to the Harvard Film Archive, Janus Films, Kadokawa, the National Film Center (Tokyo), Nikkatsu, and Shochiku.