Ugetsu ★★★★★

Ugetsu Monogatari - My first Mizoguchi experience proved to be one of immeasurable enchantment. The tale, whilst simple is thematically layered and made even more resonant by the haunting and dramatic score and bewitching photography. Much like Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' and Shindo's 'Onibaba' there is a element of the supernatural that seems to be infused in Japanese culture of the time.

The tale of two couples who strive to earn a living in a harsh civil war climate, that with the sniff of greater fortune make two different but equally damaging trajectories into a higher social standing. The more humble of the two is a father that is initially tested with good fortune in pottery sales but is seduced by something and someone that he would have not suspected. The other is more foolish of nature and craves the power and social standing of a warrior and with some luck and dishonesty manages to get more than he bargained for. With both husbands making unwise and unbalanced decisions their female counterparts fare poorly with some tragic outcomes that steer the moral compass of the film.

The exquisite photography and framing throughout captures both the harsh realism of the time and the supernatural elements that form the fabric of the film. The most famous scenes are the stills that are portrayed on the DVD artwork, and in motion are simply intoxicating and seductive. The score is propelled with a sense of doom as wailing vocals float over a marching drum rhythm. The performances are honest and nuanced and every character is memorable in their delivery.

This film is of Masterpiece distinction, a captivating and multifaceted tale that sees me eager to fall under it's spell again and again, but also seek out more of Master Mizoguchi's work. A must see!

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