Friday, March 13, 2009

An online treasure trove for fans of Kenji Mizoguchi

by Chris MaGee

If you're a fan of the work of cinematic master Kenji Mizoguchi then have we got a treat for you. In one of my usual wanders through the internet (I think I was looking for pre-war movie posters) I found an astounding website that showcases the personal collection of Mizoguchi artifacts maintained by Hachijo Miyajima.

Miyajima joined Daiei Studios in Kyoto in October of 1951 not as an assistant director, but a lowly assistant to the assistant director. He made less that the studio janitors, but he was present during filmmaking history. Miyajima worked under Tokuzo Tanaka, the second unit director for Mizoguchi's "Ugetsu Monogatari" (above) and "Sansho the Bailiff" amongst others. This gave Miyajima access to some amazing materials: preliminary and finals drafts of scripts, detailed notes (on everything from traditional Japanese hairstyles to Ukiyo-e prints) that Mizoguchi made, concept sketches and crude scribbled story boards, prop and costume test photographs, and some truly gorgeous stills from the productions of many of the master's films.

Miyajima would go on to full assitant director duties on 1966 "Spider Lilies" and 1967's "The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka" both helmed by Yasuzo Masumura who had himself got his start as an assistant director under Mizoguchi.

There's a lot on Miyajima's site and it's all in Japanese, so I'll break down some pages for easy browsing. Click on the following links for artifacts from the productions of: "Ugestu", "A Story from Chikamatsu", "Sansho the Bailiff", "The Crucified Woman", and "A Geisha ".

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