jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
Everyone endures temptation in their lives. It's an unavoidable force of destruction and causes doubt in even the most earnest and studious of men or women; significant others cheat on their beloved partners in favor for a brief moment of infatuation and relentless passion or others are swept up in various objects or activities that prove to have a seductive aura to them (pornography, drugs, and alcohol, just to name a few) and find that their attempts at escaping their addictions are primarily difficult and sometimes even impossible to accomplish. In the wake of the decaying life you've now grown to hate, lies the shadows of your past; a simpler, easier time, where life was more meaningful and things seemed more enjoyable to do. In Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu, a dissection of temptation is shown, without any barriers, saturated images, or PG images: the brutality of temptation is on full throttle and the lasting effects are devastating, scarring.
We follow two men and a woman on a boat, steering their way from the burning village, their village. War has devastated them. They steer on a small body of water. A thick fog dances over their little boat, capturing them into the spider-web of unknown early on in Ugetsu. A woman and her child look on as the boat becomes invisible quite early on in their rowing. Her husband promises to return within 10 days, filled with pockets of money and wealth. He intends on selling his beloved pottery to a new marketplace. The other man, his friend, becomes convinced that he will achieve fame by being a samurai. His delusional dreams outweigh everything else in his life. The woman, his wife, only insists on coming with because she recognizes her husband's inability to think for himself, his mind more clouded than the river they row on. These are the characters of Ugetsu; two families. Two family-men, intent on surviving with their aspirations in mind. Two women, who see the changes that these temptations have had on their husbands; one has become delusional with fame, the other has become greedy, thirsty for money. In this moment, we seem to know the outcome of Genjuro (the greedy man), Tobei (the dreamer), their wives (Miyagi and Ohama), and Genjuro and Miyagi's son, Genichi right then and there; two men, shroud in their greed and temptation, have become two men their wives don't recognize anymore. How easy would it have been to turn back, save the pain, and continue to live as they once did? We're not so sure, even Mizoguchi can't answer that, but we can only watch it all unfold.
At what cost is their goals accomplished, their dreams fulfilled? Each friend and family member becomes separated from one another; Miyagi and Genichi remain at their decimated village, Tobei runs off and journeys to become a samurai, Ohama is violated and her morals now shattered, and Genjuro now entangles not only with money, but a beautiful temptress, Lady Wasaka. Their fates, locked away by Mizsoguchi, have been sealed; the two women will struggle to survive without their husbands, leading to drastic situations and devastating results. Tobei will cheat his way through for power and Genjuro will commit adultery and forget the life he once had, that promise to his wife now broken. Two honest men, clouded by judgement, have become images of men they never knew. If only they had listened to their wives, none of this would've happened.