Puffin’s review published on Letterboxd:
Overflowing with culture, this tragic tale would not have worked as well in the hands of Ozu or Kurosawa. This was Mizoguchi's story, and he proved why with this film.
There's a constant emphasis on music, which off-sets scenes of despair, largely. The music sets a creepy vibe that reminded me a bit of a later work by Masaki Kobayashi, Kwaidan. It's one of my favorite elements of the film, it's incredibly varietal, with different instruments and vibes throughout. It matches the story incredibly.
The visuals are wonderful, but they aren't as distinct in stills, as they are in movement. The camera glides around at just the right times, making every moment feel natural. Most may not notice it, as unlike the films of Ophuls or Welles, these visuals aren't as obvious or ambitious. But they are just as fitting, and out of the three, I felt Mizoguchi (in this film, at least) had the most restraint, and could stop a camera movement at the most perfect time. The film's lighting is also impressive, the use of shadows being especially important in the harsher scenes.
Brutal character conflicts, the writing shows no bias towards these people, and lets the viewer decide how to feel. The film's quality isn't dependent on whether or not you like the characters. Nevertheless, a somber tone is always apparent, no matter what side you're on.
Mizoguchi has a larger presence than most filmmakers I've seen from this era. Despite some having written him off as boring, Mizoguchi makes a film that flows so naturally, that never feels "wrong" at any point in how it delivers anything, and yet still manages to develop his own style that distinguishes him from his peers, he does feel appropriate among the greatest Japanese filmmakers of all time, even if he doesn't share the same popularity.
One reviewer on this site equated the film to watching a dream unfold, and I totally see it. Mizoguchi hits all of those sweetspots that is hard to explain, but you can't stop thinking about. It might not be as surreal as a dream, but it still leaves a lasting impact.