Princess Yang Kwei-fei

Screening on Film
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.
With Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, So Yamamura.
Japan, 1955, 35mm, color, 98 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.

This fascinating co-production between the Japanese studio Daiei and the Shaw Brothers, the fabled producers based in Hong Kong, had its origins in Daiei’s hope for a bigger international audience and the Shaw Brothers’ hopes of benefitting from the cultural cachet of Mizoguchi’s name. Yet upon its completion, Princess Yang Kwei-fei was considered a failure, with the Chinese setting alienating Mizoguchi’s followers in Japan and abroad, and the film’s emphasis on poetry over spectacle disappointing the Shaw Brothers. While it falls short of the sublimity of much of Mizoguchi’s previous work, Princess Yang Kwei-fei has nevertheless come to be championed by critics and audiences for its exquisitely moving tale of the ill-fated love affair between the 8th century emperor Xuanzong and the beautiful serving girl he makes his concubine.

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The Tales and Tragedies of Kenji Mizoguchi