Street of Shame is also in this box set but I don’t think I need to redo the review of that, so we’ll be ending this tour of late Mizoguchi with his first colour film… I was interested to learn that this project was actually initiated by Shaw and Sons in Hong Kong, the company Run De Shaw operated before younger brother Run Run set up Shaw Brothers, and the company which was pretty much wiped out by this film (thus leaving room for Run Run to muscle into). I gather Mizoguchi’s films first impressed Western audiences as exotica, to some degree, but this film added a further layer by being set in 8th century China, so it was kind of exotic for him too; at least this time he was happier about working on this film, although it seems to have mainly been because he finally had the chance to work in colour rather than because he found the story terribly interesting… And, looking at the Wikipedia entries for the historical characters involved, the Emperor and his famous concubine, I think their stories are incredibly interesting and I don’t know why so many of the details were changed for the film; the screen emperor seems like a man out of his depth and at the mercy of his court while the real one presided over a sort of golden age, and the real Yang was an actual princess rather than a rescued kitchenhand. Why were things like that changed in the film? Cos it’s not like the changes actually improve the story dramatically. The whole thing struck me as kind of feeble, and Run De Shaw was apparently so appalled by it he never released it in the Chinese territories he controlled and Shaw and Sons went under as a result.
Yang Kwei-Fei (1955)