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Re: Mizoguchi and Buddhism

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  • Richard Modiano
    ... ...I have just learned that Mizoguchi converted to a different form of Nichiren Buddhism, as I understand it, prior to making Sansho the Bailiff in
    Message 1 of 9 , Dec 31, 2008
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      --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Peter" <lensdarkly@...> wrote:

      "...I have just learned that Mizoguchi converted to
      a different form of Nichiren Buddhism, as I understand it, prior to
      making "Sansho the Bailiff" in 1954."

      Mizoguchi formally converted to Nichirenshu sometime in early 1950
      according to Yoda Yoshitaka. Mizo was brought to Nichirenshu by his
      friend the producer Nagata Masaichi (who produced YOKIHI/PRINCESS YANG
      KWEI FEY.)

      "...Does anyone know if Mizoguchi was motivated by his Buddhist
      practice to make the film "Princess Yang Kwei-Fei". Do any of the
      studies on Mizoguchi discuss his Buddhist practice in detail? The main
      problem as I see it is that Western film critic tend to view Buddhism
      in generic terms and are unaware of the many variations that exist..."

      Mizo was interested in the 15th century Noh version of YOKIHI for a
      long time prior to his formal conversion to Buddhism (he'd been
      nominally Buddhist all his life.) He was a student of the Chinese
      classics and, again according to Yoda, he re-read the "Long Bitter
      Song" ("Chen hen ge") the Tang era poem by Bai Juyi (Po Chu-I)before
      beginning work on the film. He had Yoda and the other writers read the
      Noh drama and the poem, and the film credits "Chen hen ge" as the
      source material. There isn't very much evidence that Mizoguchi was
      solely motivated by his Buddhist faith to make the picture, however,
      his Buddhist convictions are apparent in the way he handled the
      material as they are in all his later work.

      As far as I know, there is little discussion of Mizoguchi's Buddhist
      practice by Western critics, and Japanese critics talk about it
      somewhat more but not in very much detail. Yoda describes Mizo as a
      devout Buddhist who recited passage from the Lotus Sutra before his o-
      butsudan morning and evening; he also took a portable go-honzan with
      him on location and the studio.

      In his films, he depicted Buddhists from all schools; the peasants in
      UGETSU MONOGATARI receite the Nenbutsu which identifies them as Shin
      Buddhists, the temple where Mutsu takes refuge in SANSHO DAYU is a Zen
      temple, the wairror monks of Mt. Heiei in SHIN HEIKE MONOGATARI belong
      to the Tendai school of Buddhism.

      Richard
    • alfreddouglas19
      Mr. Wood has called Mizoguchi s late phase (1950 to his death from Leukemia in 1956) his Buddhist contemplation period. A number of critics, indeed, have
      Message 2 of 9 , Jan 3, 2009
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        Mr. Wood has called Mizoguchi's late phase (1950 to his death from
        Leukemia in 1956) his "Buddhist contemplation" period. A number of
        critics, indeed, have attributed Mizoguchi's zealous pursuit of some
        higher vision to his then growing commitment, especially in these final
        years, to Buddhism. Contrast the feminist protest of his earlier films
        to the celebration of woman as self-sacrificer, redeemer, and mother in
        Ugetsu. This is certainly a large and disconcerting jump, and the
        question indeed is whether Mizoguchi's conversion to Buddhism in the
        early 1950s was a related factor, though I think, as Mr. Modiano notes,
        "there isn't very much evidence that Mizoguchi was solely motivated by
        his Buddhist faith." Mr. Modiano also notes that there is, beyond
        technique, a consistent philosophical and spiritual world view being
        asserted in these late films, and mentions that Mizoguchi's Buddhist
        convictions are apparent in the way he handles the material. But in what
        ways, specifically, are his convictions apparent? Mr. Andrew has pointed
        out that Mizoguchi's late films, like Ugetsu, produce a sense of "full
        emptiness," that encourages the unblinking contemplation of human
        suffering so as to arrive at a consolatory acceptance, and thus we as
        viewers are put under a spell that approximates the liberating,
        emptying-out effects of Buddhist detachment.




        There are a number of valuable studies that discuss "his Buddhist
        practices in detail." You might consult "Kenji Mizoguchi: A Guide to
        References and Resources" -- one of it's authors, Paul Andrew, lived
        apparently for five years in Japan where he received an M.A. in Buddhist
        studies from Ryukoku University. "Time Frames: Japanese Cinema and the
        Unfolding of History," if I recall, contains a discussion of Buddhism
        and Mizoguchi. "Representing Religion in World Cinema" and "The Waves at
        Genji's Door" both contain discussions of Mizoguchi's "personal and deep
        commitment to Buddhism" as well.




        Alfred Douglas



        --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Peter" <lensdarkly@...> wrote:
        >
        > I have practiced a form of Nichiren Buddhism for over thirty-five
        years. I've also had a
        > personal interest in "Princess Yang Kwei-Fei" as the historical Yang
        is mentioned in one of
        > Nichiren's writings, "The New Year's Gosho". I have just learned that
        Mizoguchi converted to
        > a different form of Nichiren Buddhism, as I understand it, prior to
        making "Sansho the Bailiff"
        > in 1954.
        >
        > Does anyone know if Mizoguchi was motivated by his Buddhist practice
        to make the film
        > "Princess Yang Kwei-Fei". Do any of the studies on Mizoguchi discuss
        his Buddhist practice
        > in detail? The main problem as I see it is that Western film critic
        tend to view Buddhism in
        > generic terms and are unaware of the many variations that exist.
        >
        > Happy New Year!
        >
        > Peter Nellhaus
        >
      • alfreddouglas19
        On the prominence of Buddhism in Sansho Dayu: http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/49445
        Message 3 of 9 , Jan 3, 2009
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          On the prominence of Buddhism in Sansho Dayu:

          http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/49445

          --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Richard Modiano" <tharpa2002@...> wrote:
          >
          > --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Peter" <lensdarkly@> wrote:
          >
          > "...I have just learned that Mizoguchi converted to
          > a different form of Nichiren Buddhism, as I understand it, prior to
          > making "Sansho the Bailiff" in 1954."
          >
          > Mizoguchi formally converted to Nichirenshu sometime in early 1950
          > according to Yoda Yoshitaka. Mizo was brought to Nichirenshu by his
          > friend the producer Nagata Masaichi (who produced YOKIHI/PRINCESS YANG
          > KWEI FEY.)
          >
          > "...Does anyone know if Mizoguchi was motivated by his Buddhist
          > practice to make the film "Princess Yang Kwei-Fei". Do any of the
          > studies on Mizoguchi discuss his Buddhist practice in detail? The main
          > problem as I see it is that Western film critic tend to view Buddhism
          > in generic terms and are unaware of the many variations that exist..."
          >
          > Mizo was interested in the 15th century Noh version of YOKIHI for a
          > long time prior to his formal conversion to Buddhism (he'd been
          > nominally Buddhist all his life.) He was a student of the Chinese
          > classics and, again according to Yoda, he re-read the "Long Bitter
          > Song" ("Chen hen ge") the Tang era poem by Bai Juyi (Po Chu-I)before
          > beginning work on the film. He had Yoda and the other writers read the
          > Noh drama and the poem, and the film credits "Chen hen ge" as the
          > source material. There isn't very much evidence that Mizoguchi was
          > solely motivated by his Buddhist faith to make the picture, however,
          > his Buddhist convictions are apparent in the way he handled the
          > material as they are in all his later work.
          >
          > As far as I know, there is little discussion of Mizoguchi's Buddhist
          > practice by Western critics, and Japanese critics talk about it
          > somewhat more but not in very much detail. Yoda describes Mizo as a
          > devout Buddhist who recited passage from the Lotus Sutra before his o-
          > butsudan morning and evening; he also took a portable go-honzan with
          > him on location and the studio.
          >
          > In his films, he depicted Buddhists from all schools; the peasants in
          > UGETSU MONOGATARI receite the Nenbutsu which identifies them as Shin
          > Buddhists, the temple where Mutsu takes refuge in SANSHO DAYU is a Zen
          > temple, the wairror monks of Mt. Heiei in SHIN HEIKE MONOGATARI belong
          > to the Tendai school of Buddhism.
          >
          > Richard
          >
        • Richard Modiano
          ... ...Mr. Modiano also notes that there is, beyond technique, a consistent philosophical and spiritual world view being asserted in these late films, and
          Message 4 of 9 , Jan 3, 2009
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            --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "alfreddouglas19"
            <alfreddouglas19@...> wrote:
            >
            >
            "...Mr. Modiano also notes that there is, beyond technique, a
            consistent philosophical and spiritual world view being asserted in
            these late films, and mentions that Mizoguchi's Buddhist convictions
            are apparent in the way he handles the material. But in what ways,
            specifically, are his convictions apparent? Mr. Andrew has pointed
            out that Mizoguchi's late films, like Ugetsu, produce a sense of 'full
            emptiness,' that encourages the unblinking contemplation of human
            suffering so as to arrive at a consolatory acceptance, and thus we as
            viewers are put under a spell that approximates the liberating,
            emptying-out effects of Buddhist detachment..."

            That summary of Andrew's description is about what I was getting at
            (with some reservations.)

            "...There are a number of valuable studies that discuss 'his Buddhist
            practices in detail.' You might consult 'Kenji Mizoguchi: A Guide to
            References and Resources' -- one of it's authors, Paul Andrew, lived
            apparently for five years in Japan where he received an M.A. in
            Buddhist studies from Ryukoku University. 'Time Frames: Japanese
            Cinema and the Unfolding of History,' if I recall, contains a
            discussion of Buddhism and Mizoguchi. 'Representing Religion in World
            Cinema' and 'The Waves at Genji's Door' both contain discussions of
            Mizoguchi's 'personal and deep commitment to Buddhism' as well."

            Ryukoku University is in fact a Buddhist university of the Jodo
            Shinshu sect. I wonder if Paul Andrew is a Shin Buddhist? I haven't
            read those articles, but I can tell you that Joan Mellen's book is
            seriously deficient and that her knowledge of Buddhism is entirely
            second hand and inaccurate.

            Peter's question was about the specific nature of Mizoguchi's
            Buddhism, the fact that he belonged to s specific sect of Buddhism
            with its particular set of practices. Uninformed critcs of Mizoguchi
            assume that there is one kind of Buddhism with one kind of practice
            associated with it, when in fact there are crucial distinctions
            between various schools of Buddhism and their various practices.
            Keeping to Japanese Buddhism, Shingon practice includes meditation,
            sutra recitation, fire offerings, and visualization of Sanscrit
            syllables; Zen practice includes meditation, koan meditation, sutra
            chanting, prostations and mindful manual labor; Jodo Shinshu includes
            recitation of the Nenbutsu and sutra chanting; Nichirenshu includes
            recitation of the Daimoku and sutra chanting (some sub-sects include
            meditation.) The differences between schools of Buddhism are as
            important as the differences between schools of Christianity.

            Richard
          • Richard Modiano
            ... wrote: On the prominence of Buddhism in Sansho Dayu: http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/49445 Interesting, but Kannon is
            Message 5 of 9 , Jan 3, 2009
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              --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "alfreddouglas19"
              <alfreddouglas19@...> wrote:

              "On the prominence of Buddhism in Sansho Dayu:

              http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/49445"

              Interesting, but Kannon is not a goddess. Kannon (Skt. Avaloketesvara)
              is a bodhisattva, an enlightening being, associated with compassion. By
              contrast, Monju (Skt. Manjushri) is the bodhisattva of wisdom, wisdom
              and compassion being the underlying ideals of Mahayana Buddhism.

              Richard
            • Peter
              ... Richard understood my question and has explained it better than I could. Western film critics understanding of Buddhism is often comparable to current US
              Message 6 of 9 , Jan 4, 2009
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                --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Richard Modiano" <tharpa2002@...> wrote:


                > Peter's question was about the specific nature of Mizoguchi's
                > Buddhism, the fact that he belonged to s specific sect of Buddhism
                > with its particular set of practices. Uninformed critcs of Mizoguchi
                > assume that there is one kind of Buddhism with one kind of practice
                > associated with it, when in fact there are crucial distinctions
                > between various schools of Buddhism and their various practices.
                > Keeping to Japanese Buddhism, Shingon practice includes meditation,
                > sutra recitation, fire offerings, and visualization of Sanscrit
                > syllables; Zen practice includes meditation, koan meditation, sutra
                > chanting, prostations and mindful manual labor; Jodo Shinshu includes
                > recitation of the Nenbutsu and sutra chanting; Nichirenshu includes
                > recitation of the Daimoku and sutra chanting (some sub-sects include
                > meditation.) The differences between schools of Buddhism are as
                > important as the differences between schools of Christianity.


                Richard understood my question and has explained it better than I could. Western film
                critics understanding of Buddhism is often comparable to current US politicians who make
                no distinctions between the Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq. Or to put it another way, as if there
                was no distinction between an Episcopalian and a Baptist, or an Orthodox Jew with one
                who is Hassidic.

                Peter
              • alfreddouglas19
                Yes, the diversity of views, theories, etc., across the range of Buddhist schools is certainly quite astonishingly varied in a way not to be found in
                Message 7 of 9 , Jan 4, 2009
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                  Yes, the diversity of views, theories, etc., across the range of
                  Buddhist schools is certainly quite astonishingly varied in a way not to
                  be found in Christianity, and be it film scholar or philosopher, one
                  must be sensitive especially to the internal tensions and disputes
                  within Buddhist philosophy reflected in this wide diversity of
                  perspectives. 



                  --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Peter" <lensdarkly@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Richard Modiano" tharpa2002@ wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  > > Peter's question was about the specific nature of Mizoguchi's
                  > > Buddhism, the fact that he belonged to s specific sect of Buddhism
                  > > with its particular set of practices. Uninformed critcs of Mizoguchi
                  > > assume that there is one kind of Buddhism with one kind of practice
                  > > associated with it, when in fact there are crucial distinctions
                  > > between various schools of Buddhism and their various practices.
                  > > Keeping to Japanese Buddhism, Shingon practice includes meditation,
                  > > sutra recitation, fire offerings, and visualization of Sanscrit
                  > > syllables; Zen practice includes meditation, koan meditation, sutra
                  > > chanting, prostations and mindful manual labor; Jodo Shinshu
                  includes
                  > > recitation of the Nenbutsu and sutra chanting; Nichirenshu includes
                  > > recitation of the Daimoku and sutra chanting (some sub-sects include
                  > > meditation.) The differences between schools of Buddhism are as
                  > > important as the differences between schools of Christianity.
                  >
                  >
                  > Richard understood my question and has explained it better than I
                  could. Western film
                  > critics understanding of Buddhism is often comparable to current US
                  politicians who make
                  > no distinctions between the Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq. Or to put it
                  another way, as if there
                  > was no distinction between an Episcopalian and a Baptist, or an
                  Orthodox Jew with one
                  > who is Hassidic.
                  >
                  > Peter
                  >
                • alfreddouglas19
                  In the English subtitles, Kannon is described as the goddess of mercy, hence perhaps the author s error.
                  Message 8 of 9 , Jan 4, 2009
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                    In the English subtitles, Kannon is described as the "goddess of mercy," hence perhaps the
                    author's error.

                    --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "Richard Modiano" <tharpa2002@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > --- In a_film_by@yahoogroups.com, "alfreddouglas19"
                    > <alfreddouglas19@> wrote:
                    >
                    > "On the prominence of Buddhism in Sansho Dayu:
                    >
                    > http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/49445"
                    >
                    > Interesting, but Kannon is not a goddess. Kannon (Skt. Avaloketesvara)
                    > is a bodhisattva, an enlightening being, associated with compassion. By
                    > contrast, Monju (Skt. Manjushri) is the bodhisattva of wisdom, wisdom
                    > and compassion being the underlying ideals of Mahayana Buddhism.
                    >
                    > Richard
                    >
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