A scene from Kenji Mizoguchi's "Life of Oharu."
A scene from Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Life of Oharu.”

The UCLA Film and Television Archive presents a retrospective of Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi (1898-1956) from Jan. 16 to Feb. 15 at the Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Although Mizoguchi is widely regarded as one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, screenings of his movies are rare. The core of Mizoguchi’s greatness is his use of the medium to convey a profound worldview, one that moves between social commentary, a deep feeling for tragedy and romance, and a transcendent sense of man’s — and woman’s — place in the cosmos.

The plight of women in a restrictive society is a recurring theme in his films, and many of his films are melodramas about the clash between women’s desires and the restrictions of social tradition.

Mizoguchi, whose masterful use of tracking shots and compositions that move between close-ups and tableaus, always viewed his deeply human dramas with a cosmic perspective. No director made movies that were so intensely emotional without being overly sentimental, and movies that were so rigorous in their portrayal of the social order, yet so profoundly in touch with the human experience.

This series, drawn from a major retrospective presented at Museum of the Moving Image last summer, showcases a selection of Mizoguchi’s acknowledged masterpieces.

The schedule is as follows. All screenings are at 7:30 p.m. except the last one, which is at 7 p.m.

• Friday, Jan. 16: “Street of Shame” (1956) and “Ugetsu” (1953)

• Saturday, Jan. 17: “Osaka Elegy” (1936) and “Sisters of Gion” (1936)

• Friday, Jan. 23: “Sansho the Bailiff” (1954)

• Monday, Jan. 26: “Utamaro and His Five Women” (1946)

• Friday, Jan. 30: “Life of Oharu” (1952)

• Friday, Feb. 6: “Story of the Last Chrysanthemum” (1939)

• Sunday, Feb. 15: “The 47 Ronin,” Parts 1 and 2 (1941)

For tickets ($10) and descriptions of each film, click here.

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