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HK Film Archive to present Mizoguchi's tragic portrayal of women

Japanese film master Mizoguchi Kenji is famous for his depiction of women. In his films, women undergo all sorts of hardships, but never give up their unswerving love.

Nine distinguished titles, including those with international awards -- "Life of Oharu", "Sansho the Bailiff" and "Ugetsu", and Mizoguchi's early masterpieces "Osaka Elegy", "Sisters of Gion" and "Women of the Night", will be showcased at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive from December 3 to 5 and at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum from December 10 to 18.

Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and curated by Mr Law Wai-ming, the "Repertory Cinema 2004" introduces world film classics to local audiences. Mizoguchi is the third director in the series after Italian director Lina Wertmuller and Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky.

A seminar entitled "The Beauty of Female Delicacy - Mizoguchi Kenji's Films", to be conducted in Cantonese, is scheduled on December 18 at 4.45pm at the Lecture Hall of the Science Museum.

Mizoguchi, Kurosawa Akira and Ozu Yasujiro, are regarded as the most important directors in the golden era of Japanese film history.

Mizoguchi's tragic love life contributed to his works. He was stabbed in the back by his prostitute mistress when he was 27. After many years, he looked at the scar and said that because of it, he knew how to portray woman.

"All women are let down by men" -- this is the theme of Mizoguchi's films. He is always concerned about people's misery, the predicaments in life and human desires, especially those of women. He likes to use prolonged shots and insists on "one shot for one scene" to show the full expressions of actors so as to reveal the deepest feelings of characters.

The opening film, "Sansho the Bailiff"(1954), is Mizoguchi's masterpiece of his later years. A noble family is abducted and sold into slavery and even forced into prostitution. Although they can escape, nothing can compensate for the harm done. Fortune and misfortune are unpredictable, the solemnity of the theme transcends all conflicts of the sexes and social classes. This is his most political, yet most touching, film and received the Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1954.

Other films of note include "Life of Oharu" (1952). The film is adapted from the novel "Life of an Amorous Woman" and tells the story of a woman who is compelled to prostitution. It criticises the worn-out social norms and praises the humanity of suffering women.

The horror film "Ugetsu" (1953) -- which won the Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival 1953 -- is another classic. It depicts the wretched life of the protagonists who realise with bitterness that time and tide wait for no one. The dreamy ambience, the sad Noh music, the bewitching prettiness of Kyo Machiko and the tenderness of Tanaka Kinuyo come together to create this beautiful masterpiece. Another film, "The Story from Chikamatsu" (1954) tells the fatalistic story of desperate lovers.

In his early film "Osaka Elegy" (1936), a pretty woman sacrifices herself to pay her father and brother's debt. However, the family regards her as shameful. So she chooses to lead her own free and independent life. Filmed in the same year, "Sisters of Gion" (1936) continues to reflect the tragedy of women. This film won the title "master" for Mizoguchi for the first time. In "Story of the Late Chrysanthemums" (1939), he criticises the inability of man while praising the sacrifices of woman.

Towards the end of the failing war, women of the night wandered the streets of Osaka, each harbouring her own bitterness. The realism, the sincere compassion and the outstanding long camera shots make "Women of the Night" (1948) one of Mizoguchi's masterpieces. "My Love Has Been Burning" (1949) is another work of post-war reflection.

Talented actress Tanaka Kinuyo stars in most of the selection.

All films are in Japanese with English subtitles. "Sisters of Gion", "Life of Oharu" and "Sansho the Bailiff" will have additional Chinese subtitles.

Tickets priced at $50 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. There will be a 10% discount for each purchase of six to 10 tickets and a 20% discount for each purchase of 11 or more tickets.

For programme information, call 2734 2900 or visit . Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009 or on the website, .

Ends/Monday, November 22, 2004
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