Ugetsu ★★★★

March Around the World 2016

Country 6: Japan

Blame my school history lessons- from the age of eleven up until sixteen, the only topic I was ever taught about was WWII, with a rushed week on the cold war when it transpired that would be a focus of the GCSE exam. I scraped a C. If it was all about WWII, I would expect an A*. This extensive focus on one subject across five years has meant that my knowledge of everything else in history is purely on the broad spectrum. How I wish I spent those five years learning about Japan's rich history. Instead, every time I come to a rich historical epic from the nation I'm left admiring it, but left feeling I've been robbed of a masterpiece for not knowing the ins and outs of the historical context in which any given film is set.

Because Ugetsu is clearly brilliant, mixing together the three different genres Japanese cinema is celebrated for into one affecting narrative. We have the family drama/conflicts of Ozu, the rich historical detail and sweeping cinematic flights of fancy of Kurosawa, with an understated ghost story element reminiscent of Hideo Nakata- it was undoubtably an influence on his style. An effective slow-burn, taking its time to firmly establish characters and different tones in order to subtly introduce contrasting ones, this is the kind of movie I'm glad I watched without any prior knowledge. But still wish I had prior historical knowledge to bump that four star up to a five star movie- I feel I'm not in a position to fully appreciate how rich it is.

Bonus points for a supernatural pottery scene that feels like a trial-run for Ghost.

Alistair Ryder liked this review