Ugetsu / Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)

“I see death in your face! Have you encountered a ghost?”

Synopsis:
A potter (Masayuki Mori) and his brother-in-law (Eitaro Ozawa) go to the city to sell their wares, where they succomb to the temptations of love and excitement. Mori has an affair with beautiful Machiko Kyo (who turns out to be a ghost), while Ozawa runs off to become a samurai. Meanwhile, their wives (Kinuyo Tanaka and Mitsuko Mito) are left at the mercy of a roaming band of samurai, who will either kill them or force them into prostitution.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “haunting, beautifully shot” film contains many of Kenji Mizoguchi’s favored themes: women who are portrayed as “the victims of insensitive men”; men who are chastised for sacrificing “familial happiness for money or glory”; and real-life history blending seamlessly with supernatural legend. A morality play at heart, Ugetsu remains a poignant meditation on the importance of loyalty to one’s spouse above all else. As noted by one commenter on IMDb, this film is a worthy precursor to The Sixth Sense (1999) in its handling of a “spectral twist”.

Redeeming Qualities:

  • Countless memorable images, including a boat ride across mist-shrouded water
  • Effectively eerie supernaturalism

Must See?
Yes. All film fanatics should see this classic of Japanese cinema.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Ugetsu / Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)”

  1. A once-must, as a representative example of classic Japanese cinema.

    That said, I find the film slightly overrated – and, to a degree, I don’t feel it has stood the test of time. I believe it was released when western audiences were beginning to stand up and notice films from Japan. One can certainly understand the reason for that in this case, considering this film’s evocative and exotic quality. (It is indeed beautifully shot – and I agree that “the boat ride across mist-shrouded water” is stunning.)

    But, watching ‘Ugetsu’ again just now, the film only seems to really come alive (very much so) and rise above its simplistic form in the final 30 min. (the 3rd section). Up to that point, there’s a sluggish feeling that could even cause some ffs to start dozing off.

    I’m not that familiar with Ozawa’s work as an actor but three other members of the main cast – Mori, Kyo and Tanaka – while turning in respectable performances here, have all done much more memorable work elsewhere. The real surprise in this film comes from Mitsuko Mito as Ohama. I don’t recall seeing much of her before either – but take particular note of her in the late sequence in which she has become a woman of easy virtue and happens upon her ambitious husband (Ozawa) who has become an admired samurai. It is a highlight in the film.

    And, yes, the near-end scene between Mori and Tanaka is indeed heartwarming and ultimately chilling.

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