The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum
DIRECTOR: KENJI MIZOGUCHI
CAST: SHōTARō HANAYAGI, KōKICHI TAKADA
“One of the most brilliant satires of the Japanese family system,” according to scholar Joan Mellen, Mizoguchi’s masterpiece, his first film for Shochiku Studios, lays its scene in Meiji-era Tokyo, where fumbling actor Kikunosuke (Shotaro Hanayagi) breaks with his Kabuki star father to take up with low-born servant Otoku (Kakuko Mori), the only person honest with him about his artistic shortcomings. Living with Otoku, Kikunosuke will grow to greatness as an onnagata, suffering on-stage in female roles, but it’s Otoku who does the suffering in life. For not the last time, Mizoguchi reminds us that art may be essential to living, but it isn’t a victimless crime.