Ugetsu

Ugetsu

This subtle, violent yet magical film is one of the most amazing of the Japanese movies that played American art houses after the international success of RASHOMON in 1951. The director, Kenji Mizoguchi, handles the narrative in two styles: barbaric sequences dealing with greed and civil war that seem realistic except that the characters are deliberately animalistic and are symbolically acting out the bestial side of man; and highly stylized sequences dealing with the aesthetic, luxurious, and romantic modes of life. When the hero (Masayuki Mori), a grunting peasant potter, develops self-awareness and becomes an artist, the meanings multiply. The film is upsetting and unspeakably cruel at times, and then so suggestive and haunting that it's confounding. When, in the midst of serene elegance, the phantom Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo) offers the potter-artist rarefied sensual delights, you know how he feels as he cries, "I never imagined such pleasures existed!" Heavy going in spots, but with marvellous passages that are worth a bit of patience. With Kinuyo Tanaka as the potter's wife. In Japanese.