In the beginning of the springtime in the period of the Japanese Civil Wars of the Sixteenth Century in Lake Biwa in the Province of Omi, the family man farmer and craftsman Genjurô travels to Nagahama to sell his wares and makes a small fortune. His neighbor Tobei that is a fool man dreams on becoming a samurai, but he can not afford to buy the necessary outfit. The greedy Genjurô and Tobei work together manufacturing clay potteries, expecting to sell the pieces and enrich; however, their wives Miyage and Ohama are worried about the army of the cruel Shibata that is coming to their village and they warn their ambitious husbands. Their village is looted but the families flee and survive; Genjurô and Tobei decide to travel by boat with their wives and baby to sell the wares in a bigger town. When they meet another boat that was attacked by pirates, Genjurô decides to leave his wife and son on the bank of the river, promising to return in ten days. Genjurô, Tobei and Ohama raise a large...Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Ugetsu is a film that separates itself from both period pieces of its time and from Japanese film of any era. It neither has the ferocious, exiting energy that Kurosawa successfully utilized, nor the slow mundane nature that Ozu became known for. Rather it attempts (successfully) to give a drawn out, slightly surrealistic atmosphere that exhibits images of lingering beauty throughout its short length. What drew me into the film deepest was the usage of not style or substance (if that makes sense), but rather these images that remained on your mind long after the film was finished. A sabotaged boat drifting away in the fog with nothing but a dead man aboard, an enchantress' seduction of a naive peasant and a landscape dotted with danger and war, all make up some of the most beautiful images, that would not be out of place in a painting. They alone say more then most films do in their entire message.
The film nonetheless has some very impressive subject matter to its credit, dealing with war, greed and the line between reality and the spiritual world. Throughout the film we see two peasants progressively grow to lust for the riches of the world, Genjurô desires to sell his wares and become wealthy, while Tobei desires to be a samurai and have power. In time they both get to a point where this is a reality, where one of them fulfills what he desires, the other is led into a surrealistic haze by a demonic seductress. In the end the loss of what was important all along becomes apparent, and a message of humility becomes the films point.
Though it is not nearly as accessible a film as Kurosawa's period pieces of the same time, Ugetsu succeeds on a level that they do not. It brings an element of sheer beauty I have not been acquainted with by any Japanese director. The camera moves much slower as to give you a sense of your surroundings, to allow the film to become part of you. In doing this Mizoguchi distances some viewers, while at the same time bringing many to a level impossible with any other director (Eastern or Western). He successfully does what all great artists do, he makes his art truly great and therefore truly subjective.
There is not a lot I can further say about this beautiful film except that it is best taken on an image by image base with the real plot as a second consideration. When one has experienced the images the plot becomes more meaningful, and the result is one of the most beautiful films one will ever witness. I gave Kenji Mizoguchi's crowning achievement a deserving 9/10. Ugetsu is a beautiful flawless example of the cinema that I sincerely recommend.
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