Ugetsu

Ugetsu ★★★★★

An entrancing meditation on from rags to riches, romance and supernatural beings (it being based on a Japanese folktale), Mizoguchi takes on supernatural romance by blending bleak realism of 16th century war with eerie supernatural visuals of the beautiful, enchanting Lady Wasaka. He does it so naturally, that the thin line between reality and dream or metaphysics is torn asunder, creating a feverish masterpiece.

The plot entails of two poor men; Genjūrō and Tōbei who live in a communal village, during a war, with wives and (in Genjūrō's case) a kid. Both men leave their wives in hopes of seeking their desires; Genjūrō desires wealth whereas Tōbei wishes to serve his land as samurai, much to their beloveds' dismay, despite many obstacles. They go and sell pottery where Genjūrō is attracted by the eerie and ghostlike charm of Lady Wasaka.

The visuals and the sound design really help with the surroundings of the film, creating subtle atmospheres, we first see Lady Wasaka be silent and with white robes until luring Genjūrō to the palace. And hear a ghostly orchestral soundtrack, and see a detail on candlelights, her eyebrowless face, and a harsh difference between light and dark. She, being wealthy, creates another desire for Genjūrō. The transitions with long takes make the film flow so beautifully, with careful camerawork and attention to mist and water. The boat scenes and the exterior scenes with Genjūrō and Wasaka are particularly scenes that left me with an everlasting impression.

With a few possible exceptions (if even that), I have never felt so mesmerised by a supernatural film, especially one where reality and unreality are key figures within a film, Mizoguchi understood how it was done, sign of a master. Ugetsu is often paired as a trio (if that's the right word) of acclaimed Japanese films within 1953 and 1954 Seven Samurai and Tokyo Story, made by Kurosawa and Ozu, and this is my favourite and Mizoguchi is, to me, the most captivating director of the retrospective country and era so far. Anyone interested in delving into that part of world cinema will be greatly rewarded. As I have bought it on a duo Masters of Cinema set with Oyū Sama, I highly look forward to seeing more of Mizoguchi.

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