The-Story-of-the-Last-Chrysanthemum

catthatbarks  asked:

Favorite composers? Favorite pieces? Favorite classical musicians? Favorite opera singers? Favorite books? Favorite authors? Favorite movies? Favorite actors? Favorite icons (fashion, film, etc etc)? i love your blog!

Composers: W. A. Mozart, J. S. Bach, L.v. Beethoven, Gustav Mahler, Dmitri Shostakovich, Jean Sibelius, Richard Strauss, Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn, P. I. Tchaikovsky, Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, Paul Hindemith, G.P. Telemann, G.F. Handel, Arnold Schönberg, Fanny Mendelssohn, Alexander Borodin, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Germaine Tailleferre,Dietrich Buxtehude, Louise Farrenc, William Byrd, Henrich Biber, Johannes Ockeghem, Gilles Binchois, Domenico Scarlatti, Claudio Monteverdi, Guillaume de Machaut, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Nicola Matteis, Jean-Marie Leclair, Anton Rubinstein, Lili Boulanger, Galina Ustvolskaya, Sergey Taneyev, Vasily Kalinnikov.

Pieces/Works: Strauss’s Metamorphosen, Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler/Kammermusik, Sibelius’s Symphony No.4 & 5/ Violin Concerto in D minor/ The Swan of Tuonela/ Kullervo, Beethoven’s Eroica, 4th & 7th symphonies/Piano Sonata Nos. 12, 19, 24, 31 (1st & 3rd mov.)/ Egmont, Coriolan & Leonore Overtures/ Triple Concerto for Piano, Violin & Cello, Mozart’s Piano Concertos (No. 9, 15, 20, 24)/Symphonies 36, 39, 41/Requiem/Da Ponte Operas/ Adagio and Fugue in C minor, Dvořák’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra/ Serenade in E major, Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues (No. 2, 12, 16, 24.)/ Piano Quintet/Symphony 7 & 8/String Quartets 8, 10 & 15, Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, Mendelssohn’s String Quartets (No. 2, 4, 6)/Piano Quartet No.3/ Cello Sonata No. 2/ Violin Concerto, Ravel’s Piano Concerto/Daphnis et Chloé/Gaspard de la Nuit, Haydn’s London Symphonies, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6/Violin Concerto in D/Suite No.3/ Souvenir de Florence/Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Franck’s Prelude, Chorale and Fugue, Scriabin’s Etudes (No. 1, 5, 8, 10), Chopin’s Ballades (1 & 4)/Preludes, Goyescas, Rachmaninoff’s The Isle of the Dead/Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom/The Bells, Schönberg’s Verklarte Nacht/ Pélleas und Melisande, Fauré’s Élégie for cello and orchestra Op. 24/Trois mélodies, Op.7, Debussy’s Images I & II/Estampes, Berg’s String Quartet, Dora Pejačević’s Cello Sonata in E minor, Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel.

Musicians: Glenn Gould, Artur Schnabel, Gregor Piatigorsky, Edwin Fischer, Mstislav Rostropovich, Clara Haskil, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Sviatoslav Richter, Alfred Cortot, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Martha Argerich, Maria Yudina, Ignaz Friedman, Leonid Kogan, Wilhelm Backhaus, David Oistrakh, Yehudi Menuhin, Dinu Lipatti, Emil Gilels, Wilhelm Kempff, Paul Tortelier, Pau Casals, Bronislaw Huberman, Heinrich Neuhaus, Mischa Elman, Daniil Shafran, Sergio Fiorentino, Alicia de Larrocha, Wanda Landowska, Leonid Kogan, Henryk Szeryng, Vladimir Sofronitsky, Nathan Milstein, Annie Fischer, Zino Francescatti, Michael Rabin, Joseph Hassid, Claudio Arrau, Georges Cziffra, Aurèle Nicolet, Alain Marion.

Films: All of Tarkovsky (specially Mirror, Stalker and Nostalghia) and Mizoguchi (specially Sansho the Bailiff, Osaka Elegy and The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums), La Notte di Cabiria, Sans Soleil, The Red Shoes, The Third Man, 8 ½, Late Spring, Floating Weeds, Autumn Sonata, Winter Light, The Virgin Spring, Cries and Whispers, Au Hasard Balthazar, Les Cousins, Le Feu Follet, Yi yi, A Time to Live/A Time to Die, Hiroshima mon Amour, Last Year in Marienbad, Statues also Die, Night and Fog, Diary of a Country Priest, Ordet, Werckmeister Harmonies, Broken Blossoms, Way Down East (Griffith), Ascenceur pour L’Echafaud, The Promised Land, Opening Night, Testament of Orpheus, Letter from an Unknown Woman, Rebecca, La Notte, Jules et Jim, Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks, Journal d'un curé de campagne, Ikiru, The Trial, F for Fake, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Vivre sa Vie, Apur Sansar, In the Mood for Love, Taste of Cherry, Through the Olive Trees, A Star is Born, Viridiana, To be or not to be, Morocco, Laura, The Big Sleep, Floating Clouds, Pandora’s Box, The Color of Pomegranates, Shadows of our Forgotten Ancestors, Sunrise, Russian Ark.

Singers: Cesare Siepi, Gottlob Frick, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Josef Greindl, Leontyne Price, Lucia Popp, Christa Ludwig, Franco Corelli, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Boris Christoff, Fritz Wunderlich, Kurt Moll, Jussi Björling, Alfredo Kraus, Nicolai Gedda, Giacomo Aragall, Aureliano Pertile, Gundula Janowitz, Jessye Norman, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Birgit Nilsson, Maureen Forrester, Ludwig Suthaus, Ettore Bastianini, Edda Moser, Maria Callas, Lauritz Melchior, Alexander Kipnis, Wolfgang Windgassen, Feodor Chaliapin, Birgit Nilsson, Kirsten Flagstad, Brigitte Fassbaender, Renata Tebaldi, Ezio Pinza.

Actors: Anatoly Solonitsyn, Chishū Ryū, Jeanne Moreau, Lillian Gish, Liv Ullmann, Giulietta Masina, Anton Walbrook, Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Andersson, Toshiro Mifune, Gena Rowlands, Anna Magnani, Setsuko Hara, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Hideko Takamine, Gunnar Björnstrand, Maurice Ronet, Joseph Cotten, Jean-Louis Trintignant, François Périer, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Gene Tierney, Oleg Yankovsky, Erland Josephson, Greta Garbo, Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Dana Andrews, Michel Piccoli, Soumitra Chatterjee, Claude Rains, Tony Leung, Fernando Rey, Francisco Rabal, María Casares, Delphine Seyrig, Hanna Schygulla.

Authors: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Natsume Soseki, Nikolai Gogol, Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Anna Akhmatova, Alexander Blok, Alexander Kuprin, José Saramago, Virginia Woolf, André Gide, Fernando Pessoa, Hermann Hesse, Edgar Allan Poe, Christopher Okigbo, Anna Akhmatova,  Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Yulia Zhadovskaya, Marcel Proust, Honoré de Balzac, George Elliot, William Faulkner, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Mikhail Lermontov, Ivan Bunin, Nikolay Nekrasov, Samuel Beckett, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Theodor Fontane, Hafiz, Federico Garcia Lorca, Rafael Alberti, José Maria de Eça de Queirós, Goethe, Antonin Artaud, Julio Ramón Riberyro, Alejandra Pizarnik, Jorge Eduardo Eielson, Cesare Pavese, Giacomo Leopardi, Marina Tsvetaeva, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Osip Mandelstam .

Literature: All of Dostoyevsky’s work, Kusamakura, The Book of the Disquiet, The Magic Mountain, Buddenbrooks, A Hero of Our Time, The Government Inspector, The Overcoat, Dead Souls, Eugene Onegin, Kolyma Tales, Aranyak, Lost Illusions, Doktor Faustus, The Castle, A Hunger Artist, A Room of One’s Own, Hell Screen, A Fool’s Life, Yama: The Pit, We, The Glass Bead Game, Narcissus and Goldmund, Middlemarch, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, Conversations with Goethe, Montaigne’s Essays, Illuminations, Le Spleen de Paris, In Search of Lost Time, I Am Cat, Molloy, The Waves, As I Lay Dying, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Auto da Fe, The Other World, Labyrinths, Rosary, Memories of the Future, The Counterfeiters, The Theatre and Its Double, Tristam Shandy.

This is, of course, a very vague (and also overwhelming, forgive me) listing of favorites. There are so many I could not possibly name them all, for an entire universe pours out unrelentingly. But I did what I could…thanks a lot for asking.

7

120 Years of Cinema, 120 Films [Day 7, 17/120]

Don’t let your admirers’ praise go to your head.

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939, Japan)

Whether it is “Chrysanthemum” or “Chrysanthemums”, Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums is one of his most shattering takes on a subject that films returned to time and again: the role of women in a society that subjugates them while they try to adapt to the changing times. Mizoguchi, who some consider the most transcendental director of Japan’s “holy trilogy” of directors (this also includes Kurosawa and Ozu), is also the one most willing to examine the world through a female lens.

As Japan begins to industrialize, Kikiunosuke Onoe (Shotaro Hanayagi) is an aspiring Kabuki actor who is aiming to be like his acclaimed stepfather. Peppered with praise by the others in the acting company, many of those company members secretly deride his substandard performances behind his back. Then comes Otoku (Kakuko Mori), the wet nurse of his baby half-brother, who is the first to give Kikiunosuke the truth. The two begin to bond against the social norms of Japanese society – he leaves homes and she is chastised by the family and subsequently fired. With nowhere to go, Otoku decides to leave with Kikunosuke to survive as well as to support his acting career.

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums is more male-centric than Mizoguchi’s more feminist-leaning films. This is not to say Otoku is a weak and uninteresting character; she is anything but. How she carries herself and her endless compassion and determination to survive and have Kikiunosuke – who she falls in love with and marries – thrive permeates the entire film. At times, Kikiunosuke is unable to see how his suffering is incomparable to that Otoku is going through and his realization of this comes at the most painful of moments.

In the late 1930s, no director in Japan could frame or plan a shot like Mizoguchi. Featuring an amazing five-minute unbroken dialogue scene where Otoku tells the truth about Kikiunosuke’s acting to his face (this is not even the longest unbroken shot in the film but this is the most technically accomplished of all because it’s on a dolly), this tragic film uses its aging canvas masterfully.

A testament to the impermanence of things (in Japanese, mono no aware) and a meditation on one woman’s de facto position in Meiji-era Japan, The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums is one of the lesser-known, but nevertheless classics of Japan’s esteemed cinematic history. 

NOTE: Due to translation problems, nobody seems to be sure if “Chrysanthemums" is plural or not. Also, I spoil the ending because I thought it necessary.

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939, Japan)

This is the second film I have seen by Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi - considered one-third of the holy trinity of Japanese directors (himself, Kurosawa, Ozu). The other film was The Life of Oharu (my review here) - both are united by one specific type of character. That character is the woman who sacrifices her well-being for the sake of others. Where in The Life of Oharu, Oharu was the victim of injustices that were beyond her control, the character of Otoku (Kakuko Mori) in The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums willingly sacrifices her occupation of family wetnurse and, ultimately, her life, in order to help Kikunosuke Onoue (Shotaro Hanayagi) advance his career.

Both films run 148 minutes. I can’t decide which of the films told the more tragic tale. Considering that I teared up in both over Oharu and Otoku, I don’t want to make that decision.

Let’s focus now on The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums. Kikunosuke is the adopted son of a famous kabuki actor (Gonjuro Kawarazaki) in late 19th century Tokyo. The acting family assumes he will take the position from his father in due time and praise Kikunosuke for his perofmances. One night, Otoku (nursing his newborn baby brother) tells him the truth in a masterfully shot five-minute scene that progresses with not a single cut (notice the movements and position changes from beginning to end… Otoku eventually finds herself in Kikunosuke’s shadow and is there to stay).

Reportedly, this is the first film Mizoguchi started experimenting with takes lasting three to nine (NINE!) minutes at a time in order to establish a deliberate, glacial pace. There is often very little movement during these long takes - these scenes usually are scenes of dialogue in medium or long-range shots (there are zero closeups in the film) Unfortunately, for a more expert review on Mizoguchi’s geometry and framing, this is not the place to find it. But as a mere novice of understanding auteuristic cinematography, even I can come to appreciate the efforts and effects.

The two form a bond frowned upon by social mores. Rumors swell, Kikunosuke refuses to break their love, she is subsequently fired, and he goes looking for her to thank her for her brutal honesty. And for six years, Kikunosuke wanders away from home (throwing away the family name in order to prove his true worth) with Otoku following him - she is there to help her lover flourish as an artist and grow as a spouse in all but name and a humbler, wiser, human being. This aid comes at the expense of her own physical health The pain that Kikunosuke suffers is ultimately never feels as convincing or as grave as that suffered by Otoku. One would think that in such a progressive depiction in a relationship between a couple, things would be a little more even-handed. Compared to The Life of Oharu, The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums is decidedly more male-centric - this is not to say the character of Otoku is submissive and weak, anyone with a smidge of compassion could only marvel at her unshakable resolve and drive to take the lead for her husband. Meanwhile, Kikunosuke comes off as naive and a tad bumbling in his early years of exile.

To spoil, Kikunosuke becomes the actor he, his father, his family, and most importantly, Otoku. The day he returns to his father’s troupe, Kikunosuke forgives both of them - an esteemed actor can claim to love any woman he wants. On her deathbed dying of tuberculosis, Otoku is told by Kikunosuke that his father has forgiven the both of them. They are crying - for different reasons. He must leave as they are having a river parade in his honor. Alone, her sight begins to fail and asks the relative strangers around her to describe the scenes of the parade. Before they can do so, the last chrysanthemum has wilted, many years later than it should have.

Moments like those are why I am a believer in cinema. The pictures and fleeting shadows are evocative as much as Hanayagi (a stage actor in his first film) and Mori’s acting refuse to be cornered into what could be called a melodramatic screenplay. Otoku could have simply lied to Kikunosuke, to allow him to wallow in his own mediocrity. Her selflessness and the loneliness of her death was shattering to me and I know someone, somewhere, in our great, big, messy world of film wants to make a movie like The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums. Someone wants to introduce to us an Otoku.

1939 marked the height of Imperial Japan and filmmakers were prodded into making their period pieces take place in the Edo era of the 17th century - which was remarkable for its stability in its traditions and isolationist foreign policy. Mizoguchi thought the period to be inappropriate for his adaptation of Shofu Muramatsu’s novel andset it during the Meiji Restoration of the late 19th century instead - an era associated by Japan’s transition from feudal to modern industrialist times and societal change. It’s a wise choice considering Mizoguchi’s past, which made him more of a feminist than probably even he realized.

Mizoguchi’s mother had died when he was seventeen, leaving his older sister Suzu to shield him from their father’s brutal behavior. Suzu would later be sold into geishadom, but retained her sisterly relationship to Kenji - inspiring his own art amidst her own, seemingly inescapable situation. She would later happily marry, but the experience would forever mark Kenji Mizoguchi’s films - the subject of the suffering of women would permeate his work.

For reasons stated in the fifth paragraph, The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums is just barely worse than The Life of Oharu. But that is not saying much - The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums richly deserves its reputation as a masterpiece film, even if experimental and anti-Mizoguchi in a few respects.

Despite eliciting an emotional reaction from me, I’m not sure if I could fully relate to the film. But I now realize that chrysanthemums are to be treasured, cherished, and thanked. How I wish they weren’t so fleeting, but how I wish we could all hold one in our hands, if but for a moment.

My rating: 9.5/10

^ Based on my personal imdb rating.

This week, we were proud to release Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1939 film The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum, a devastating meditation on the costs of artistic ambition that showcases the director’s luminous visual style at its most sophisticated. In the inaugural post in its new online column Criterion Crash Course, MovieMaker magazine mines the film and the special features on our release for material that will be instructive for any independent filmmaker.

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