Ugetsu

"Extraordinary"

Ugetsu Review


Kenji Mizoguchi's mist-shrouded masterpiece Ugetsu is a morality tale that is ever mindful of the frail humanity of its characters. Set in Japan during the tumultuous sixteenth century - when the country was torn apart by civil wars - the film follows what happens to two couples, living the simple life in a small village, who get swept up in the insanity and lose their moorings to reality.

Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) is a farmer and part-time potter who's sick of being poor and is delighted when he finds that a trip with his wares to a nearby town earns him a pretty penny. Quickly getting greedy, he works night and day to make more product to sell, although his wife Miyagi (Kinuyo Tanaka) urges caution. Genjuro's brother-in-law Tobei (Eitaro Ozawa) is also sick of the simple life, but his way out is the dream of a little kid: He wants to be a samurai. His first attempt to run away and join one of the roving armies doesn't work out so well, though, with the samurai kicking him away, laughing and saying to come back when he has armor and a spear. After the village is ransacked by soldiers, Genjuro's kiln and wares somehow survive, so all four of them head to town to sell everything they can to rebuild their lives. All that comes before this point - pillaging, poverty, hopelessness - is just precursor, though, as the men are each presented with the ability to live out their dreams, opportunities they quickly snatch, leaving their loved ones to fend for themselves in a lawless and ghost-plagued land.

At first (and perhaps second and third) glance, Ugetsu is one of the most hopeless films ever made. Simple people dream of better things - adventure, riches - and are crushed for it when they receive them, or at least the appearance of them. The lesson they learn, if any, is that life is mindlessly cruel and favors only the strong and the lucky. But somehow, in all this, Mizoguchi has made a film that is not the cruel, sadistic exercise which this description would make it seem. Instead of the innate superiority that normally suffuses morality tales, there is a sense of compassion here, a charitable and saddened poetry that understands the foolish things people do, even when it destroys what little they have.

Mizoguchi and his screenwriters based the film on Eastern and Western literary sources, blending stories from Japanese author Akinari Ueda as well as Guy de Maupassant, helping to give this deceptively simple work a universal appeal that is mindful of Rashomon, a contemporary that had a similarly bleak view of human nature. Ugetsu also shares Kurosawa's love of deadly symmetries and is a marvel of the ways in which multiple storylines - the desperate and abandoned wives, the happy and then cursed husbands - can be smartly woven together from disparate angles. It's so tightly constructed that even a seeming anomaly like a ghost (yes, there's more than one ghost here) seems just another character, just as lost and forlorn as the living.

The two-disc Criterion Collection DVD is a deluxe package indeed, featuring interviews, trailers, documentaries, a two-and-a-half-hour film on the life and work of Mizoguchi, and even a neat little booklet containing all three short stories the film was based on, as well as an insightful essay by Philip Lopate. The screen transfer of the film's full-screen presentation is as good as one could hope for, though there's still notable scratchiness on the print and some scenes overwhelmed by dark. But for the most part, it's a good presentation of the film, nicely capturing the mournful beauty of Mizoguchi's work.

Aka Ugetsu monogatari.

Read my chest: No new taxes.



Ugetsu

Facts and Figures

Run time: 96 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 7th September 1954

Distributed by: Edward Harrison

Production compaines: Daiei Studios

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 22

IMDB: 8.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi

Producer:

Starring: as Genjurô, as Lady Wakasa, as Miyagi, as Tobei, as Genichi, as Ohama, Kikue Môri as Okun, Ryôsuke Kagawa as Village Master, Eigoro Onoe as Knight, Sugisaku Aoyama as Old Priest, Saburo Date as Vassal

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.