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Mizoguchi Kenji. ‘ One-scene-in-one-shot ’ His visual style. Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (Montage). LONG-TAKE * Take = a single continuous recording Shot - Scene - Sequence *shot = the shortest unit of film which is continuously shown without interruption, that is, editing;

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mizoguchi kenji

Mizoguchi Kenji


His visual style

mizoguchi s visual style montage
Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (Montage)

* Take = a single continuous recording

  • Shot - Scene - Sequence

*shot = the shortest unit of film which is continuously shown without interruption, that is, editing;

*scene = a shot or a series of shots that comprise a single, complete event or action;

*sequence = a series of scenes which show related events, settings or stories

  • ‘One-scene-in-one-shot’; an entire action in a scene is shown in one shot
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (Montage)
  • Why does Mizoguchi rely on long-take or insist one scene in one shot?

*Average Shot Length (ASL) = a cinemetrical measures; 5.9 second per shot in D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance and 2.5 seconds in American films made in 2007)

  • 22 seconds in Osaka Elegy, 33 seconds in Sisters of Gion, 57 seconds in Chrysanthemum, 92 seconds in The 47 Ronin, 29 seconds in Ugetsu
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (Montage)

‘… the most precise and specific expression for intense psychological moments.’

Mizoguchi Kenji

  • Long-take is an effective way to create psychological tension
  • Though demanding for performers and cameramen
mizoguchi s visual style mise en sc ne
Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • Expansive screen space
  • Continuous space created by fluid pan and traveling shots


  • Skillful uses of on- and off-screen space
  • Off-screen space further indicated by repeated sound effects (e.g. Chrysanthemums)
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • One of the great mise-en-scene directors along with Murnau, Ophüls, and Wells
  • Mise-en-scène = ‘staging’ (‘to put it in the scene’)
  • It includes all the elements placed before the camera or within a frame - actors, their performance, sets, props, make-ups, costumes, etc.
  • It also includes the way in which those elements are shown - visual arrangement and composition - lighting, camera angle, camera movement, shot size, lens choice, etc.
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • Chiaro-scuro lighting - strong contrast between light and shade

(Rembrandt lighting - Mizoguchi learned western paintings when young.)

  • Atmospheric, moody and powerful images
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • Mizoguchi’s chiaro-scuro cinematography

(e.g. Sansho the Bailiff)

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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • Long-shot (a camera view of a character or object from a distance)

(or no close-ups)

  • Related to long-take; the longer a take is, the more information needs to fill the screen, so that the viewer can spend more time seeing and contemplating on it. Long shot provides more information.
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • The scene in Ugetsu where the heroine is dying in agony while the soldiers on the run squabble for pathetic rice balls for which they killed her.
  • A tragedy and human waste is staged in a long shot with multiple actions.
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • REALISTIC and SYMBOLIC representation
  • Visual REALISM

Construction of sets,

designing costumes

finding locations based on meticulous historical research

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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • Sansho the Bailiff : The opening shot shows travelers walking across a river bed.
  • Its symbolic visual meaning retroactively becomes apparent as the film progresses.
  • Our life is a only journey-in-progress from eternity to another eternity.
realistic and symbolic representation
Realistic and Symbolic Representation
  • Symbolic meaning of water
  • Passage from one life to another
  • Passage separating this world from the other world
  • Repeated in many films by Mizoguchi
realistic and symbolic representation1
Realistic and Symbolic Representation
  • A canal separates Gion, a Kyoto pleasure district, where two sisters work as geisha and commercial its districts.
  • Water trade / ephemeral world / floating world
realistic and symbolic representation2
Realistic and Symbolic Representation
  • The lake Biwa separate a village from a large town
  • The lake Biwa also separates this world from the other
realistic and symbolic representation3
Realistic and Symbolic Representation
  • The world on reality and dream in OyuSama
  • Giving up the torrid triangular love, a woman lives like a recluse in a house near the Yodo River. Her former lover secretly visits her, but being no longer able to distinguish what he is seeing is real or not.
realistic and symbolic representation4
Realistic and Symbolic Representation
  • Water is an important motif in Lady of Musashino
  • Fleeting affairs between a married woman and a younger student
  • Water separates the mundane world and the dreamy world
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • Frequent uses of sharply angled shot
  • Mizoguchi’s aesthetic choice
  • Composition inspired by traditional prints and scroll paintings
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • POV from high in the air and looking down on a scene
  • High angle shot like the traditional Japanese painting
  • The beginning of Legend of the Taira Clan (Shin Heike Monogatari, 1955)
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • Formal characteristics of composition and movement


Composition and movement

  • Mizoguchi’s aesthetic sensibility as a painter
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • Diagonal compositions constructed from the lines of floor, ceiling, beam, and tatami are frequently seen in Mizoguchi’s films.
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • Horizontal composition (examples)
  • Ozu preferred horizontal to diagonal
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • NaruseMikio, follower of Ozu in his penchant for horizontal composition
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (mise-en-scène)
  • Painterly cinematography - composition and subdued colour scheme reminding of the ink painting
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style (montage)
  • Montage - editing
  • The same or similar visual motifs repeated in a film
  • Young Anju and Zushio breaking tree branches and collecting grass for a shelter. The similar scene with the same composition to be repeated later. Sansho the Bailiff
mizoguchi s visual style
Mizoguchi’s Visual Style
  • LONG TAKE, LONG SHOT, OFF-SCREEN SPACE, SOUND EFFECT, DIAGONAL COMPOSITION AND MOVEMENT articulate emotions, intensify drama, clarify meanings, provide aesthetic and formal pleasure.
  • The Life of Oharu
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Mizoguchi’s Visual Style
  • Miraculous openings of The Tales of the Taira Clan