The Story Of Chikamatsu (1954) was one of three films Kenji Mizoguchi made in 1954 and is over shadowed by the success of Sansho The Baliff, also made in 1954, which won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival that year. Japanese film critic Tadao Sato suggested that it is as good as any of his other films including other award winners such as Ugetsu and Life Of Oharu. This coupled with critic Donald Richie's praise of the film inspired me to search it out and evaluate it in relation to those three excellent films. In The Japanese Film: Art and Industry, the authors discuss Chikamatsu thus:
Chikamatsu's lovers always face a problem surmountable by death. They are always tormented by inescapable pressures of society, which drive them to destruction. Many of the pressures in Chikamatsu resolve around money, the recognition of the development of a capitalist society from a feudal society. By merely showing the death of hero and heroine, there is protest in his work though it never comes near the surface.
This vision differs from Mizoguchi's usual story patterns where women are constantly suffering from their sacrifices. I like the fact that, in this story, the heroine refuses to give into societal and family pressures for the sake of others and chooses her own free will even though it will lead to death. Kazuo Haegawa (star of Ichikaswa's An Actor's Revenge) stars as Mohei the devoted servant who gets caught up in legal trouble when he tries to forge his boss', Ishun's, (Eitaro Shindo) approval for a loan for the mistress of the household, Osan (Kyoko Kagawa). I found the visual presentation of the crucified lovers at the beginning of the film somewhat shocking for the time period. It is a powerful film, and it is among Mizoguchi's greatest films.