Taki no shiraito / Water Magician

Taki no shiraito / The Water Magician (1933)

Hard to make a joke when they look that serious

Director: Mizoguchi Kenji
Writers: Izumi Kyoka (novel), Higashibojo Yasunaga, Masuda Shinji, Tateoka Kennosuke
Date: 1933

Genre: Drama
Description: A real love story, honor, to repay one’s debt, great kindness, an amazing woman, pure heartbreak

Cast: Irie Takako, Okada Tokihiko, Miyake Bontaro, Taki Suzuko, etc.

Crew of note:

Runtime: 110 mins.
Color: BW, Silent + Benshi
Trivia: Irie Takako was 22 when this was made. Amazing.

Taki no Shiraito, a famous water magician (a circus attraction with water fountains), falls in love with the reckless, young Kinya or Kin-san, a poor student working odd-jobs to continue his law studies. He loses his job as a stagecoach driver after an incident with Taki no shiraito, but when they meet again, the woman swears to support Kin-san until he graduates. They part as she rejoins her troupe, and inevitably, they are destined to meet again.

Being a Mizoguchi film, you already expect complete and utter heartbreak. Although this is very early in his career, the fact that the movie already shows the great insight he has into the life of the woman is already striking. It is perhaps even more heartbreaking than all of Mizoguchi’s other movies because of its simplicity and lack of any overwrought circumstances. In fact, all the events in the movie are perfectly set up and foreshadowed; unlike many tragedies, the twist or cruel hand of fate is not arbitrary or pulled out of the director’s ass.

Amazing acting, even though there is the use of benshi (narration and voice over). I would have loved to have heard Takako’s voice. When she cries, in silence, dear lord it is probably one of the most amazing moments in silent film. Her face, the shot, the lighting, perfection. The relationship between the two leads is really what the movie is about, punctuated by their acting; some of the best in Japanese silents.

Although the movie is improperly preserved, there are many admirable shots, including the bridge scene (Tomo below, Kin-san above), and the talk between the two in the dark. And although this is a tragedy, the movie never frames them as failures; this is not a movie about how love succumbs to tragedy, but rather, the true success of kindness, honor, and love.

And the love between them is beautiful.

PS. Many will say that, like most Mizoguchi, the movie has a sad ending. I disagree. It is the perfect ending given the circumstances: their love, their honor, their duty to one another is preserved, is fulfilled.

Not one of his more popular films, but my favorite Mizoguchi for a reason. Intimate, lovely, and a true story of love and honor.

things to take note of
The ending – why it absolutely had to end that way
Shots in the dark
Takako’s facial expressions

best moment
The bridge
When Taki no shiraito cries

why you should watch this

rating: 9

Plot: B+
Cast: A
Cinematography: B
Music: C+
Entertainment: B+

similar movies, maybe:
Other Mizoguchi films about how amazing women are