Portrait of Madame Yuki
(Yuki Fujin Ezu)
With Michiyo Kogure, Yoshiko Kuga, Ken Uehara.
Japan, 1950, 35mm, black & white, 88 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
Mizoguchi’s oeuvre took an unexpected turn with this psycho-sexually charged portrait of an upper-class woman fully aware that her strange, unalterable attraction to a man she openly despises will lead to the tragic ending announced from the film’s very beginning. Hinting at the unearthly, supernatural forces that emerge in Ugetsu and Mizoguchi’s other works made after he converted to Buddhism, the destructive amour fou at the dark heart of Portrait of Madame Yuki takes on an almost religious tone as a kind of extreme passion willingly suffered for causes that remain always obscure. The role of an innocent servant girl as observer to her beloved employee’s recklessly impulsive erotic life opens a new sexually charged voyeuristic dimension to Mizoguchi’s cinema which points towards the work of New Wave directors such as Yoshida and Oshima.