May 18, 2019

Mizoguchi, Sembène

at the
Echo Park Film Center

May 24th, 2019
Doors at 7:30pm
$5 Suggested Donation

Echo Park Film Center 
1200 North Alvarado St. 
Los Angeles, CA. 90026 


Kenji Mizoguchi, 1949

preceded by

Ousmane Sembène, 1970  


a.k.a. The Flame of My Love. Japan. 1949. 84 minutes.
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Shochiku Kyoto Studio. 
Based on a novel by Kogo Noda itself based on the book Mekake no Hanshogai (Half a Life as a Mistress) by Hideko Kageyama a.k.a. Hideko Fukuda. Script: Yoshikata Yoda and Kaneto Shindo. Producer: Hisao Itoya, Kiyoshi Shimazu, Tomoji Kubo. Cinematography: Kohei Sugiyama, Tomotaro Nashiki. Lighting: Shigeo Terada, Minoru Yoshikawa. Artistic Director: Hiroshi Mizutani, Dai Arakawa, Junichiro Osumi. Sets: Kiyoharu Matsuno, Sueyoshi Yamaguchi. Costumes: Tsuma Nakamura. Coiffures: Yoshiko Kimura. Wigs: Rikizo Inoue. Music: Senji Ito, played by the Shochiku Kyoto Orchestra. Songs: "Waga Koi wa Moenu" by Gento Uehara and Kikutaro Takahashi, sung by Ken Tsumura; "Ai no Tomoshibi", by Senji Ito and Matsumura Mataichi, sung by Takako Sayomiya. Sound: Taro Takahashi, Takeo Kawakita. Assistants: Tatsuo Sakai, Mitsuo Okada. Historical Research: Sunao Kai. Players: Kinuyo Tanaka (Eiko Hirayama), Mitsuko Mito (Chiyo), Ichiro Sugai (Kentaro Omoi), Eitaro Ozawa (Ryuzo Hayase), Koreya Senda (Taisuke Itagaki), Eijiro Tono (Hirobumi Ito), Kappei Matsumoto (Kusuo Arai), Mitsuo Nagata (Okajima), Miyake Kuniko (Kishida Toshiko, the feminist), Masao Shimizu (Takeshi Sakazaki, the publisher), Hiroshi Aoyama (Ikeda, the student), Shinobu Araki (Kaku Hirayama, father of Eiko), Ikuko Hirano (mother of Eiko), Mitsuaki Minami (Takashige Kanda, prison warden), Jukichi Uno and Haruo Inoue (prison guards), Shigeo Shoyuzama (prison doctor), Makoto Kobori (restaurant owner), Tamihei Tomimoto (police commissioner), Hirohisa Murata (Chiyo's husband), Torahiko Hamada (boss of the silk mill), Kenji Izumi (manager of the silk mill), Sadako Sawamura (Omasa, the prisoner), Miyoko Shinobu (Tomii), Kenzo Tanaka and Hideki Kato (policemen), Akio Miyajima, Mokutaro Minakami (men who buy Chiyo), Ryuji Tosa, Koji Nadada, Ichiro Katayama (supporters of Jiyuto), Hisako Araki, Kiyo Murakami, Yoshiko Sekiya, Michiko Murata, Junko Hara, Kazuko Satomi, Shizue Hiraku, Teruko Yasaka, Fumiko Yamada (employees of the silk mill), Kimie Kawakama, Junko Kagami, Toshimi Nishikawa, Kazuko Aoyama, Fusako Suzuki, Mitsue Takigawa, Chigusa Maki (prisoners). 

MY LOVE IS BURNING is the third film in a series that has been called "the Fighting Women" trilogy, which includes THE VICTORY OF WOMEN (1946) and THE LOVE OF ACTRESS SUMAKO (1948), all directed by Mizoguchi with Tanaka as the righteous heroine, all set in the Meiji period and made at Shochiku studios after the Japanese surrender, when, it must be said, U.S. Occupation forces were exerting influence over Japanese film production in the name of "promoting democracy". The Meiji period was a decisive time in 1880s Japan, as the country found itself under the pressures of modernization, Westernized political forms, and the rejection of the shogunate's feudalism; Mizoguchi often returned to this epoch for its beauty and its spirit of revolt. For MY LOVE IS BURNING screenwriters Shindo and Yoda drew on the life of one of the Meiji period's first staunch feminists, Hideko Kageyama, a journalist and Civil Rights activist whose autobiography MY HALF LIFE AS A MISTRESS was the basis for the screenplay.


Eiko, a schoolteacher in Okayama, is inspired by the visit of a leading feminist to her town. In the harbor, while saying goodbye to a friend who is departing for Tokyo to join the burgeoning Liberal Party, Eiko sees and is unable to stop her family's servant, Chiyo, from being sold into bondage. Eiko decides to go to Tokyo to fight for women's rights. There she meets Omoi, a dynamic leader of the new Liberal Party. 

Omoi loses a major political battle when moderates vote to dissolve the Party. Eiko takes pity on him and they become lovers. 

Eiko joins Omoi in a political crusade and they become involved with a group of farmers protesting the exploitation of mill girls. Acting as a scout, Eiko witnesses the abuse of the girls and watches in horror as a girl is rapedit is Chiyo, her family's former servant. Afterwards, the half-crazed Chiyo burns down the mill. Eiko, Omoi, and Chiyo are thrown into prison. 

Five years later in 1889, a Constitution is bestowed by the Emperor, along with amnesty for political prisoners. The Constitution, however, contains no mention of women's rights. Omoi is released to great popular acclaim. 

Eiko and Omoi marry and take Chiyo into their household. Omoi is found to be maintaining a mistress; Eiko is disgusted by Omoi's hypocrisy. 

In Japan's first parliamentary elections, Omoi is voted into the Diet. Eiko decides to return to Okayama, where she will start a school and promote women's rights through education. On the train, she reunites with the beaten Chiyo.

"A detailed, living fresco of protest, street battles, intrigues, and the claims of the individual conscience." (John Gillett, NFT)



Jean Mitry wrote that Mizoguchi's characteristic  "atmosphere is both realist and legendary," and of a "refined style, with half-tone effects." It should be noted that whereas UGETSU MONOGATARI (1953) and SANSHO THE BAILIFF (1954) partake more of the mythic, legendary side of Mizoguchi's historical representations, the events of MY LOVE IS BURNING are part of Japanese history and depict precise historical moments. "Police raids on the early political campaign meetings (of the 1880s Civil Rights movement), such as are seen in the opening scene of the film, did actually occur quite often," writes Tony Rayns. 

"The political turmoil of the 1880s is carefully reconstructed: the regional tours of the demagogues, the breaking up of dissident meetings and riots by police, the rural revolt of the farmers in Chichibu, splits and betrayals in the Liberal movement, the sellout of the rank-and-file by the leadership of the party, (and) the first elections in Japan."  (Freda Freiberg, "Tales of Kageyama")

"The first group that organized itself into a small political party was the Jiyuto (the Liberal Party). It was fundamentally a party of middle-class capitalists anxious to defend their own interests, although many of its younger members were vocal on the subjects of citizen's rights in general and women's rights in particular." (Rayns, NFT)

"The film depicts the period leading up to the promulgation of the Meiji Constitution in 1890 through the experience of Eiko Harayama (Tanka), who sees the liberal opposition as a movement within which she can work for women's rights. After being betrayed by two men, she decides to work alone as a teacher in order to provide women with education needed to challenge the male-dominated social structures. The opening title describes the film as 'an appeal to the world for a truly free woman' and Eiko as 'a woman who fought a feudal society.' The implication is that the struggle is an ongoing one not limited to a specific time and place and that, as Eiko discovers, in many respects the structures of feudal society remain despite apparent ideological changes." (James Leach, "Mizoguchi and Ideology")


"In August 1945, Japan surrendered totally and unconditionally. 
"It may be difficult for foreigners to understand the state of mind at that moment. On the one hand, there were Japanese who believed in victory and for whom the defeat represented a downfall and the end of their dreams. On the other hand, there were Japanese who had suffered greatly during the ten years of war and although Japan was destroyed and completely beaten, this defeat meant joy and liberation. 
"At the end of the World War, these two contradictory tendencies were evident among the Japanese people and brought about a certain confusion. In Japan, fascist power was not defeated by the people but by foreign forces, so this victory did not bring about the end of the oppression but the occupation of the country by the foreign soldiers. This case is quite different from that of France, for example, where the people had resisted against the Nazi occupiers and for whom the victory meant, at the same time, national liberation. 
"When the Japanese people found peace, we could breathe freely. Like other Japanese, Mizoguchi did not know how this freedom would benefit his work. 
"For the construction of a peaceful and democratic Japan, the US Occupation Army commissioned the Japanese studios to make a number of films to fight against fascism. The Japanese filmmakers did not object, but it was not possible for them to produce masterpieces under the orders of General MacArthur. 
"This period, called 'democratization of Japan', was vital to the modern history of our country but was also very important for the cinema, because it prepared the ground for the golden age of Japanese cinema..." 
(Akira Iwazaki, "Kenji Mizoguchi" in Anthologie du cinéma, Tome III. L'Avant-Scène. Paris 1968.)

"Japanese critics, especially those of the left, read the feminist films of the Occupation period as colonized discourse: the Americans dictated the themes and attitudes; the films produced were un-Japanese, unauthentic. Thus Akira Iwasaki, leading left-wing activist and critic, dismissed MY LOVE IS BURNING (along with other feminist films of the period 1946-1949) as 'a good response to the dictates of General MacArthur' and labeled its heroine if not exactly un-Japanese then definitely not genuinely Mizoguchian. (...) He, along with other male leftist filmmakers and critics of the period, did not seem to view feminism as progressive, identifying it rather with American liberal capitalist ideology.

"(Iwasaki's) view is shared in part, but not consistently, by Sato Tadao, leading postwar Japanese critic. In one article, Sato finds 'strident official propaganda' in the feminist rhetoric of Mizoguchi's early Occupation films; but elsewhere he records his disappointment that MY LOVE IS BURNING did not make the Top Ten Japanese critics' poll in 1949. (...) He notes that a characteristic Mizoguchi theme is that men succeed at the expense of women. In the prewar Mizoguchi films, women are often the victims of the ideology of risshin shusse (male careerism). In the postwar films, this motif is still there, if not dominant. Thus, in MY LOVE IS BURNING, Omoi is elected to parliament but betrays the woman who supports him and abandons his commitment to women's rights..." (Freda Freiberg, "Tales of Kageyama")

"Yoshikata Yoda, a lifelong collaborator of Mizoguchi and a writer on the second and third films of the trilogy, admits that he could not successfully dramatize these heroines in his screenplays. Yoda also believes that Mizoguchi did not really understand postwar democracy, probably because he was too concerned with trying to transform himself to catch up with the changing times: 'At the historical moment at the end of the war, Mizoguchi was at a loss. He was in the middle of a slump in his career, too.... He could not understand postwar democracy, and because the world was drastically changing, he was probably obsessed about changing himself too.... Finally, he realized that he could not grasp anything.'" (Kyoko Hirano, "Women's Liberation")


Working with "the best cinematographers in film history" and Tanaka, "an actress of unimaginable resources," Mizoguchisaid filmmaker Paulo Rocha in a 2000 interviewpossessed "expressive means, at all levels that the West does not possess, not even in its wildest dreams." 

"(Every image in Mizoguchi is) at the same time an observation of the world, a documentary truth of the external worldhard, cruel, bindingand a reflection of an inner world, which is to say an emotional repercussion of the painful feelings experienced by the characters, the victims of this reality which tortures them ceaselessly." (Jean Douchet)

To read screenwriter Yoshikata Yoda's recollections of working on MY LOVE IS BURNING, newly translated to English from the book SOUVENIRS DE KENJI MIZOGUCHI (MEMORIES OF MIZOGUCHI), as well as Mizoguchi's remarks on the film, see HERE


Senegal. 1970. Color. 24 minutes. 
Wolof and French with English subtitles.
Directed by Ousmane Sembène. 
Production: Broadcasting Film Commission / Ecumenical Council of American Churches in Senegal
Producers: Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, Herbert F. Lowe. Screenplay: Ousmane Sembène based on his short story Tauw. Cinematography: Georges Caristan. Editor: Mawa Gaye. Sound: El Hadji Mbow. Music: Samba Diabara Samb. Players: Mamadou M'bow, Amadou Dieng, Fatim Diane, Coumba Mané, Yoro Cissé, Mamadou Diagne, Christophe N'doulabia.

"I conceive my films as introductions to the comprehension of a situation which needs to be changed. " (Ousmane Sembène) 

"Of all African directors, Sembène was the first to confer value to the images." (Med Hondo)

In Dakar, twenty-year-old unemployed Tauw ("elder brother" in Wolof) fends off accusations of laziness and tries to make a home for his pregnant girlfriend who has been rejected by her family. He struggles to find work as a longshoreman in a marketplace that requires him to pay money to be hired. He dreams on a park bench. An odious religious father is repudiated.

This day-in-the-life film, using the whole city of Dakar as a stage, focuses on the despair caused by Senegal's high rate of unemployment and the generational clash, in which the old still cling to Islam and paternal dictatorship while the young find no escape from exploitation in both its traditional and modern forms.

Like Sembène's BLACK GIRL (1966), THE MONEY ORDER (1968) and XALA (1975), TAUW is based on one of the director's own novellas. 

"Ousmane Sembène (1923–2007) of Senegal is considered the father of African film. By the time he came to film, at age 40, he had a past ranging from deep immersion in tribal religion to Communism, from military service to being a longshoreman in Marseille. A prominent novelist, he decided to go to the Soviet Union to study filmmaking at Gorki Studios under Mark Donskoi, feeling that, in Senegal where literacy was less than universal, he could reach a larger audience through cinema." (Charles Silver)

TAUW was funded by the Ecumenical Council of American Churches in Senegal. About this Sembène simply said "I am taking money from where I can get it. Even from a church." In the film, Tauw's brother Oumon is seen taking lessons at the feet of a Qur'anic teacher who is rendered as an absolute caricature of religious authority, yet the sketch is not cardboard. Sembène films this everyday situation of subordination with such clarity and particularity to Dakar at that time, in that corner of town, seen by these children, with that tone of voice, that we are able to see, with the lucidity of a childhood memory, what the Qur'anic teacher stands on; it is not the Qur'an but sand, a wicker chair, water for his foot-bath, and children who will beg for money to give to him. We see this in equal measure to his dictates, and are encouraged to weigh his holy words and their economics to actual circumstances and things. 

As TAUW's critique of the role of Islam in everyday life was commissioned by an American Christian Church, accusations of insensitivity, cultural recklessness, and even Crusading were leveled at the film by The African-American Institute in an interesting letter by Harry Stein:

Two characteristics emerged which blot out other perspectives and perceptives (sic). These are the blatantly anti-Islamic message and tone found through this film and the symbolism linking modernity and assumed progress with Christianity against a backdrop of backwardness reinforced by Islam.  
These features of the film are, in our opinion, so damaging that they negate other possible insights and applications of the film. Were this film by Senegalese for Senegalese the focus on Islam and Christianity could be understood and reacted to within this context. The themes of Islamic cultural and political conservatism are constantly a matter for Senegalese discussion and opinion.  
But this film is for an American audience (sic). The Director's personal convictions and intent will, except in rare instances before specialized audiences, be misunderstood. Moreover, this film was financed by, I believe, and is distributed by the major American Protestant organization proselytizing in Africa. All staff are unable to yet believe that your organization could have created or be a part to such an undertaking which places Islam and Christianity in such a context. I, personally, do not believe you could exhibit this film in Africa without stirring potentially bitter antagonisms. Exhibition in the United States would even be more insidious because the majority of viewers would accept the films basic themes. They would not be aware of Senegalese internal politics and cultural diversity. They would not know that Sembène has always opposed certain aspects of Senegalese life."

All of this can be heartily dismissed and moved past if one accepts, or is willing to learn from, the Marxism of Sembène's filmthe inability of the Institute to do so lead to such confused sensitivities, and ultimately to the recommendation that the film not be exhibited. The lack of respect and faith in the audience to learn from a film (all of Sembène's films are didactic, in the richest sense) exemplified by this letter is the U.N. version of the same type of Americanized reaction one sometimes finds to the particularities of Mizoguchi's films: 

"While I found MY LOVE IS BURNING coldly interesting in revealing a new facet of Mizoguchi's career, it is hardly a film for people off the streets or even revival-house buffs. Unlike A GEISHA (1953), whose observations on women in economic bondage were as relevant to 1978 Manhattan as to 1953 Japan, MY LOVE in its severe, anti-dramatic format and obscure historical references belongs more in the archives for Mizoguchi scholars." (Tom Allen,The Village Voice, 1979)

I print these wholly negative, mad distortions—Sembene's film is for "the American audience" and links "modernity and assumed progress with Christianity"; Mizoguchi's film is "obscure", not a film for "people off the streets" and should be confined to "the archives" (read: to oblivion)so that we may prove them wrong in projection on May 24th, 2019.


Program total running time: 1 hour and 52 minutes
There will be no introductions.
Program notes provided at the door. 
Doors open at 7:30pm, film at 8pm.
$5 Suggested Donation.

Special Thanks to Chloe Reyes, Tag Gallagher, and Amy Basen.

Witnessing duplicity and the bad faith of leaders, Omoi says "It's hard to live right. Now I know what reality is."

Betrayed progressives stand off to the side and yell, having just realized it: "We're the bureaucracy's dog! Where is justice? Where is freedom?"


"Kino Slang Presents" is a regular series of cinema screenings at the Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles. It continues the cinematographic investigations, excavations, proceedings by montage and association, silent alarms and naked dawns of this thirteen-year-old blog.


May 15, 2019


A Statement by Mizoguchi

From the book Mizoguchi Kenji by Peter Morris (Canadian Film Institute, 1967). Morris cites these statements as being "based on three interviews recorded by Tsuneo Hazumi in the Fifties. Hazumi, who died in 1958, was one of the best Japanese critics and a close friend of Mizoguchi."

My film MY LOVE IS BURNING has been the target of much severe criticism. In one of these articles, it was described as 'a wild animal film' and the article added that all the characters howled from beginning to end. This, I must say, is a pertinent criticism. Because I say this, I am not admitting completely to failure .I myself was worried about making a film of this kind. If I may dare speak thus: it is a 'barbarous' film. That said, the result was not really satisfying. It is the same for my film about prostitutes, WOMEN OF THE NIGHT (1948). At that time, it seems to me, I had been accumulating a sense of resentment during the long war period which I wanted to work off on some object. You could call this 'Mizoguchi's post-war style' or else the misplaced bravura of an old man. To tell you the truth I was stimulated by the pictures that Picasso made just after the war. I wanted, in every sense, to grapple with themes hand to hand. 

I realize now that stories like WOMEN OF THE NIGHT and MY LOVE IS BURNING do not have to be filmed from such an impassioned attitude, but that it is necessary to retain sufficient self-possession to be able to create an evocative, but objective description. 

Nevertheless, for all that, an actress like Isuzy Yamada is admirable. Acting, for her, is a way of life, good or bad. It is this approach which perfectly illustrates the expression 'hand to hand' or coming to grips with an idea. 

There are only two actresses in Japan, Kinuyo Tanaka and her, to whom one can apply this description. Although the audience criticizes them from a relatively artisitc point of view, one can say that they are at the absoute stage where they impose their personalities alone and can act by following their own natures. It is the same for stage actorrs when they reach a certain point. I worked once with Shotaro Hanayagi on STORY OF THE LATE CHRYSANTHEMUMS (1939). I noticed that, for ators as experienced as he, to act is to live completely with his own character. This is very differenct from the method of an ordinary film actor who knows hot to act only in the small space marked out by the camera. From the same viewpoint, I have a great admiration for Louis Jouvet, the well-known French actor. 

When I directed Tanaka or Yamada, I realized that it was pointless to offer minute explanations of their role. All I could do was to bend with their style of acting and find the exact rhythm for their actions. 

Today, as always, I want to make films which represent the way of life of a particular society. But he spectator must not be driven to despair. It is necessary to invent a new sense of humanism which will bring him cheer.

I want to continue to express the new, but I cannot abandon altogether the old. I retain a great attachment to the past, although I have only little hope for the future. Whatever my financial difficulties may be I shall never be able to prevent myself from yielding to my passion for my work.  

by Yoshikata Yoda

excerpted from Souvenirs de Kenji Mizoguchi by Yoshikata Yoda (Cahiers du cinéma,1997). Originally translated from the Japanese by Koichi Yamada. Translated from the French by Andy Rector. Yoda was Mizoguchi's screenwriter from NANIWA ELEGY (1936) though PRINCESS YANG KWEI-FEI (1955).

I've already told you somewhere that (the film's producer) Hisao Itoya was very knowledgeable about the cultural history of Meiji era. He had long been thinking about a film about the life of Hideko Kageyama, the great revolutionary of the Meiji era. (The screenwriter) Kaneto Shindo had already written a script about her. We'd already had a lot of trouble rendering Sumako's eccentric character in LOVE OF THE SUMAKO ACTRESS. Hideko Kageyama, who was animated by a burning revolutionary faith, was equally astonishing. However, in Shindo's scenario, Hideko's almost manly side was not very accentuated; it was rather a lucid attempt to explode the limitations put upon women. But with a model like Hideko, it was possible to do something stronger. "I do not care about the revolution," said Shindo, but along with (producer) Itoya, I thought it was necessary to dwell on the historical climate related to Hideko's life. I noticed that Hideko was trying to become masculinized. She wore, for example, male outfits; she shared, with other emancipated women, this somewhat naive theory of the equality of the sexes: one had to live like a man. She had then brutally realized that she was only a woman, with her passion for the revolutionary Kentaro Ooi, and her progressive demands had been strengthened; she defended her cause lucidly. But Shindo did not agree. My role was limited to giving some advice. . . In the final version, we omitted two very important points: 1) Hideko's behavior was explained by the fact that, physiologically, she did not have the revelation of her femininity until rather late. This particularity should have had dramatic implications. Shindo refused. But shown as a simple lover, the heroine was too commonplace. 2) During the famous case of Korea (agitation for the Korean independence movement), Hideko, charged with a mission, must escape with a suitcase full of dynamite. She is stopped before embarking. I thought we could dramatize this sequence. But thinking about the surveillance of the U.S. occupation army, we gave up. . . As became all too common! 

The difficulty of MY LOVE IS BURNING was to express the revolutionary rise of the Liberty and Civil Rights party, a beautiful page in the history of the Meiji era. Or also the great difficulty of making an ideological portrait of a revolutionary like Kentaro Ooi, the partner of Hideko. After MY LOVE IS BURNING, Mizoguchi was to shoot THE LIFE OF O'HARU. But there was bad blood between Mizoguchi and Shochiku. The scenario was enriched, fed by our joint discussions. The refusal of Shochiku--with whom Mizoguchi split--was very discouraging. So we went to Tokyo to shoot MADAME YUKI, produced by Shintoho, based on the novel by Seiichi Funabashi. I adapted it with his brother Kazuo Funabashi. Our work was relatively easy, but by our own fault, (the script of) MADAME YUKI failed to reach the romantic sensuality of the original text. Mizoguchi, however, excelled at these things, and, trusting him, we only tried to express the honesty and sincerity of the young heroes. I did not want to give too much credit to the aristocratic class for the prevailing democracy, but to show its fall, its disappointment, its fading. We did it through a pure and naive girl named Hamako: she admires Yuki a lot, of which she is the maid. In her eyes, little by little we read her disappointment and her disillusions. . .

A Statement by Mizoguchi
from the same book by Peter Morris, see above.

I have made numerous films on the Meiji era, the subject matter of which was taken from the everyday life of the epoque when the Emperor Meiji reigned (1868-1912). It is often told how I insisted on obtaining minute accessories for these films with such rigorous precision that I insisted for one entire day on obtaining one little lamp. This story is true, and it is in this manner that I directed the Meiji series. 

Let us say, that a man like me is always tempted by the climate of beauty in this era. What's more, I was then in deep sympathy with the popular spirit of revolt which permeated the works of Izumi Kyoka (a famous writer of the Meiji). Nevertheless, today it would be impossible for me to make such a film following the texts of Izumi, even if somebody asked me to do it. It would be the same thing for films on the life of actors. 

At the time when I made these kinds of films, the military was exercising an extremely severe censorship; and although I wished to develop following the path of my NANIWA ELEGY (1936) they forbade me to do so, describing the spirit of this film as having "decadent tendencies". In order to avoid their strictures I was therefore obliged to produce films on actors. Obviously, my sole intent in doing this was not to find refuge from censorship; I can truly say that it was also the nostalgia of this era which I loved which attracted me to make these films, nostalgia of a man who was born and raised at that time. I wanted to express its beauty. That is why I was very exacting, even when it concerned only a little lamp.

Before I started to make these films honoring the Meiji, the life and customs of that time had rarely been translated faithfully. How could it have been possible to film as was necessary, if improvised decors and chance accessories were used? It should be added that, during that earlier time, there was not one specialist in decoration, a situation which would be quite unimaginable today. Nowadays directors don't have to wear themselves out with working on such minute details as they did when they had to be producers and artistic advisers all the same time.


In Japan a vague conception of the Meiji times can be recreated, but not precisely the visual distinction between each stage from the beginnings of the Meiji period until the Russo-Japanese War. For the era which coincides with the reign of the Emperor Raisho (1916-1926) the work would be even more difficult. Although it is only a very recent past we are concerned with, we are already incapable of communicating the moral tendencies and general atmosphere of that time. Herein lies one of the principle difficulties of visual art, a difficulty which is not encountered in literature. 

If, for example, I intended to make a film from the original text of Tsuyu no ato saki by Kafu Nagai (a great writer of the Meiji era), I would not have enough confidence in myself to be sure of expressing with clarity the life and customs as they are described in the novel.

On the other hand, I made a series of regional works such as NANIWA ELEGY at Osaka, THE SISTERS OF GION at Kyoto, HOMETOWN at Tohoku, a small village in the North East region; each time, the motivation was to express the particular life of these regions. I understood, when making these films, that it was impossible to recreate an actual life drama in a Kyoto studio without losing the authentic feel of regional life. If this is so, I said to myself, I must only choose a place that I know as well as if I'd lived there like Kyoto or Osaka. And so I decided to concentrate on the life of the inhabitants from these towns and above all to look at them mischievously. Having been told that I have the shortcomings of a Kyoto man, I was well able to appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. And, although I don't believe I have included all of the people of the Kamigata region in NANIWA ELEGY and SISTERS OF THE GION, I can say that these two films are a means for the better understanding of human realities.


MY LOVE IS BURNING will screen in Los Angeles on Friday, May 24th, 2019 at 8pm along with Sembène's TAUW (1970) as part of Kino Slang at the Echo Park Film Center.

May 1, 2019

Danièle Huillet, born May 1st. . .


“Only, when the narrow-mindedness and arrogance of a class and a century that believes itself to be 'scientific' and more intelligent than prior centuries, and which is incapable of foreseeing its consequences and calculating the risks of its ventures in every domain, is combined with the greed (or power) that leads Monsieur, for example, to consider the works of art brought together by the Barnes Foundation as capital that must, by definition, return a greater value (and this goes for all the directors of state museums pushed by privatization, which is the equivalent of vandalizing common goods by the same bourgeoisie and by so-called promotional necessity); well, this is unrestrained pillaging and vandalizing. We cut the banana trees to eat the bananas and, after us, the Deluge.” 


"Sophocles' Creon is perhaps certain of his right, while Brecht's is panic-stricken by power... That you want to call 'our cinema'—our films—tragic is a compliment, especially as today's society tries hard to eliminate, to erase the feeling of the tragic, even if the earth, and life, remains tragic. But of course, as in Corneille, the tragic and the comic reinforce each other... Happiness by flashes, horror, all around. No appeasement."



“Away with information science, bureaucracy, management, atomic power plants, chemistry, machines, propaedeutics, sociology, political science. Let us try to start from scratch, before it is too late.”

Straub + Huillet, 1987/1991


“This imperialism, where does it come from? How are we going to get rid of imperialism? Are we going to let Silicon Valley bloom? We are completely colonized!”



"You must account for your life among men.  Whether you have served them or harmed them." 

Bertolt Brecht,
Das Verhör des Lukullus
(The Trial of Lucullus)

Of Sprinkling the Garden 

O sprinkling the garden, to enliven the green ! 

Watering the thirsty trees. Give them more than enough. 
And do not forget the shrubs 
Even those without berries, the exhausted 
Niggardly ones. And do not neglect 
The weeds growing between the flowers, they too 
Are thirsty. Water not only 
The fresh grass or only the scorched. 
Even the naked soil you must refresh. 

brecht, 1943


Past May Day Dedications to 
Danièle Huillet on Kino Slang

2007 - Examine Caesars 
2008 - Song of Two Humans, But...!
2009 - This Land is Mine
2010 - Men Without Women
2011 - Freedom
2012 - Small Grasses
2013 - That's Just What We Intend
2014 - The Lizards
2015 - (no post -- misery)
2016 - Free Horse
2017 Huillet at Work (interview)
2017 Venez m'aider!
2018 - Straub/Huillet/Talking