Ugetsu ★★★★★

Two ambitious villagers seek fortune, one through pottery and the other through becoming a samurai, during constant raids from Nobunaga's soldiers. "Ugetsu" is a film I find myself thinking about frequently and never coming back to for some stupid reason. This is a masterpiece. It might be the best Japanese film, but I will probably say the same about "Sansho the Bailiff" when I watch it in a month or so. All I know is that Mizoguchi is still the greatest Japanese director off all-time.

"Ugetsu" is a simple morality tale. We watch people fall into greed that leads them astray. Masayuki Mori and Kinuyo Tanaka are incredible, especially the latter. As the more level-headed of the film's two couples, their story is all the more tragic. And Mori's scenes opposite an eerie, oddly-arousing Machiko Kyô are superb. Kyô's creepy noblewoman marks the film's high point. Mizoguchi was always excellent at blending the minorly supernatural with the brutal realism exhibited by any directors who lived through a war and have a film set during a war. And while Mori and Kyô are off doing their thing, the scenes w get of Kinuyo Tanaka back home rip my heart out. The scene where the soldiers steal food from her and her child churns my stomach. Tanaka's incredible acting in this scene, as well as her more frustrated scenes at home, is too good.

As for Mistuko Mito and Eitaro Ozawa's storylines are also fantastic though only marginally lesser than Mori, Kyô, and Tanaka's arc. Ozawa's crazed Tobei contains all the intensity of Toshiro Mifune's performance in "Rashômon" and all the sad foolishness that we've seen in many protagonists before. The scene where Mito gets lost in the market while her husband begs and throws money away for samurai armor and a spear is rough to watch.

"Ugetsu" is astonishing. I'm complacent remembering, at one time, this was one two consecutive Sight & Sound top tens ('62 and '72, I think). To be honest, it should probably be on their top ten lists today. But I'm biased because I think this film is one of the grandest, most beautifully shot masterpieces ever made.

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