Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Original title: Jigokumon
Japan, 1953. Daiei Studios. Screenplay by Teinosuke Kinugasa, Masaichi Nagata, based on the play Kesa’s Husband by Kan Kikuchi. Cinematography by Kohei Sugiyama. Produced by Masaichi Nagata. Music by Yasushi Akutagawa. Production Design by Hiroshi Ozawa. Costume Design by Shima Yoshizane. Film Editing by Shigeo Nishida.
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 Machiko Kyô 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