Ugetsu ★★★★★

Around the World in May-ty Days Challenge
Movie #10 - Ugetsu (Japan)

I think for me, the Japanese cinema will always remain as the most perfect example of why and how watching movies gives you a sense of epic adventure without really wasting its time on visual effects or over the top action dynamics. How in a very subtle, somewhat dense and layered way in most of the movies mixing reality with fantasy, they seem to convey lots of messages and give an excellent commentary on morals of life whether they are period movies or post-war domestic dramas. Even their strictly entertaining movies involving samurai or things from the supernatural/fantastical world becomes much more than what they initially seems to be. Even though i really don't get to watch lots of movies from different countries and i have been trying a lot to get as much of cinematic knowledge as i can. But from what i have seen from Japan, i am a big fan of the movies by Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, Hayao Miyazaki and now adding to this list is Kenji Mizoguchi since "Ugetsu" is his first movie that i have seen. I just had an amazing time watching this movie, how wonderfully things are unfold in a seamless way where different layers connected to different themes unfolds in a way that makes the entire experience heavenly. This is a period drama which is set during the Azuchi–Momoyama period in the late 16th century. It tells story of these two families who live in a village near Lake Biwa in Omi Province. Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) is the main character who with Tobei (Eitaro Ozawa) goes to sell things in a nearby town amid the storm of soldiers who are rumored to be causing chaos in various villages. Genjuro is a potter, a very dedicated person while Tobei dreams of becoming a Samurai one day, to a point where he actually comes off as a foolish person. Genjuro has a wife, Miyagi (Kinuyo Tanaka) who is a very caring woman always advising her husband to take care of himself and not think too much about money as health and safety comes first. They have a child too, Genichi. Tobei's wife is Ohama (Mitsuko Mito) who is really sick of his daydreams and foolishness.

When Genjuro earns some money, he brings home some kimonos for his wife and food. He doesn't want to stop even though his wife tells him to but he just wants to work hard and earn more and more money. The soldiers storms their village one night and even though his pottery creations, on which he worked pretty hard are in the oven which is the final stage, they just have to flee the village. The plot really thickens when these four people gets separated from one another. Tobei after earning money sets off to fulfill his wish of becoming a Samurai. His wife while searching for him encounters some soldiers and her life changes from then on. While Miyagi stays behind trying to care for her child and wait for her husband, Genjuro encounters a very beautiful woman, Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo) while he is selling his pottery. The noblewoman and her female servant buys several pieces of the pottery and tells Genjuro to bring it to the Kutsuki mansion. I wont reveal anything else but that there are spirits in the movie. That spirit world seems to be existing along with the real world and the way Mizoguchi does the transformation is fluid. In between the war and the chaos that it brings with it, how the male members of the family are caught up feverishly in their efforts to save their family by working hard to earn money. War doesn't only destroys homes or lives but those who are left among all this, they have to survive and protect themselves which is a very tough thing to do. Genjuro finds a new life with that noblewoman, a peaceful, beautiful and wealthy life where you don't have to worry about anything. He is really moved by it and surprised that a life like this even exists among all this. Mizoguchi perfectly examines the themes of family, commitment, war and its effects, ambitions, dreams, survival, life and death. The supernatural themes doesn't disrupts the nature of the movie but instead it helps Mizoguchi's vision. It is grand, masterful and just pure classic in so many ways. The cinematography is top notch, the actors are handled perfectly, brilliant costumes and setting. Ugetsu is a moving, emotional, marvelous and ravishing tale that is presented as a fable but speaks so much about life in general that it feels universal. One of the greatest cinematic achievements and one of my favorite movies of all time.

Grade: A

(Full Review Later)

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