Hometown, Kenji Mizoguchi

Her heart is slightly broken, with tears on her disheveled face as her man walks out the door. The camera pulls out, only to cut back in, unable to leave her crying.

Hometown,¬†Kenji Mizoguchi’s first sound film (it was actually about half silent), involved a lot of fancy camerawork in search of a plot. The story was about a man who gave up his art and his wife in search of fame and fortune. It was unclear how being a famous singer was getting in the way of his singing, but it was quite clear how his rich patroness was getting in the way of his home life. He eventually sees the light when he is abandoned after an accident robs him of his voice. He recovers to much fanfare.

The film is mostly notable for its use of rhythmic editing – using the pacing of shots to establish the mood and speed of the action – as well as experiments with a moving camera. Besides the very strange above mentioned scene, where the camera pulls out and cuts back in to an image of the man’s crying wife as a way of expressing what she’s feeling, the film also has an extended dizzying party scene, where the camera becomes one of the dancers.

I saw this film at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

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