Ugetsu

Ugetsu

I'm currently (supposed to be) working on something related to folk tales, mythology and the wider significance of storytelling, so it was quite fortuitous that this was chosen as the inaugural film of *cough* 'Club Friendship' because it would have probably taken me forever to actually pull the trigger on watching it. And Ugestu is one of the most widely acclaimed examples of cine-folktale, if not filmmaking in general. I've also found myself urgently wanting to watch dozens of Japanese films over the last month. And yet, despite ticking those three boxes, I was left as cold and unengaged as could be, while still acknowledging the craft at hand.

It's an incredibly subdued and functional film, which on the one hand leans into the nature of folktale storytelling as a barebones structure, from which generations of orators will develop and deviate. This is quite literally the bones, a parable shot with such remove that cutting is minimal, and events happen at a measured distance. The historical context is similarly loaded with purpose, but only insofar as telling this specific version of the parable—it's very much translatable, and had it been made in the late 90s we'd no doubt have had a early 00s American remake starring a young blonde ex-TV favourite.

For all it's technical power and visual delight, Ugetsu is definitely a film which forces attention to the moral(ity) of its tale. And unfortunately here, it's both a victim and perpetuator of an unpleasant morality tale lineage, where reluctant female archetypes get dicked over because of the choices of stupid, shortsighted, foolhardy, arrogant, narcissistic, vainglorious men. The film deigned to only follow the men on their (relatively uneventful) adventures, to later return to find the women had endured far more significant hardships and death.

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