Ugetsu

Ugetsu ★★★★★

Not as brutally affecting as Sansho the Bailiff, but contains its own sumptuous, ethereal pleasures. Mizoguchi's flowing long shots are both beautiful and practical, moving the plot along at an efficient clip while being profoundly expressive at the same time. This mixture of beauty and efficiency (as well as the elaborate, lived-in set design) does a fantastic job of keeping the setting and characters grounded while also foreshadowing the supernatural elements that will slowly creep into the narrative. Masterful work all around, and absolutely deserving of its status as one of the pinnacles of Japanese cinema. Favorite shot: when Genjuro is in the shop fantasizing about buying his wife a kimono, and the scene abruptly cuts to Miyagi, unrecognizable in silhouette, walking toward the camera until she is slowly revealed from the shadows. The subtlety of it is fantastic: there's nothing explicitly telling us that this is in Genjuro's mind, but we immediately know that it is because of the sudden change in atmosphere, the transition from a relatively open, well-lit exterior to one that is bathed in darkness and shadow, a technique that also clues us in to Miyagi's ultimate fate. Marvelous.