Gate Of Hell (1953)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

Original title:  Jigokumon

Japan, 1953.  Daiei Studios.  Screenplay by Teinosuke Kinugasa, , based on the play Kesa’s Husband by .  Cinematography by . Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

A runaway art-house hit at its time, this film has certainly not aged well when compared with its contemporaries.  It’s a simple story of love and betrayal starring as a woman pretending to be a princess in order to help the real members of a royal family escape an invasion of their village.  The man who accompanies her to safety falls madly in love with her, determined to have her even after he finds out that she is actually married to a prominent nobleman:  it’s Japanese romance, so don’t expect it to go anywhere happy.  There’s not much substance to mine out of this one, but what has made it last over time is its truly stunning beauty.  Rarely have you seen a more gorgeously shot colour film, there are deep pools of rich hues in every shot, complemented by dazzling, Oscar-winning costumes and superbly controlled direction that never gets convoluted or frenetic.  Just don’t expect it to stay with you for long.

The Criterion Collection:  #653

Academy Awards:  Best Costume Design-Colour; Honorary Foreign Language Film Award

Berlin Film Festival: In Competition

Cannes Film Festival Award:  Grand Prize of the Festival

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