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Not the best known of Kenji Mizoguchi's period masterpieces, but conceivably the greatest (1939). The plot, which oddly resembles that of There's No Business Like Show Business, concerns the rebellious son of a theatrical family devoted to Kabuki who leaves home for many years, perfects his art, aided by a working-class woman who loves him, and eventually returns. Apart from the highly charged and adroitly edited Kabuki sequences, the film is mainly constructed in extremely long takes, and an intricate rhyme structure between the two time periods is developed by matching camera angles in the same locations. Never before nor after (with the possible exception of The 47 Ronin) would Mizoguchi's refusal to use close-ups have more telling effect, and the theme of female sacrifice that informs most of his major works is given a singular resonance and complexity here. In Japanese with subtitles. 142 min.

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