THE STORY OF THE LAST CHRYSANTHEMUM (dir. Kenji Mizoguchi, 1939, Japan, Spine #832).
I didn’t know they were talking about “nepotism babies” in 1930s Japan, but here’s the story of Kiku, a sweet but terrible young kabuki actor with a famous father. Surrounded by sycophants who mock him behind his back but flatter him to his face, he never receives any criticism (or opportunities to improve). His family disowns him when he falls in love with a woman they feel is beneath his station, sending the couple on the road to starve as he struggles to hone his craft without any leg up. Mizoguchi urges artists not to be complacent or bitter at the fortunate, but instead to recognize that greatness comes from some combination of talent, hard work, sacrifice, and opportunity.
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The Bri-terion Collection
I’m loving the Criterion Channel streaming service, so every week I’m going to share my favorite new find.