UGETSU

(Japanese Title: Ugetsu Monogatari)
(English Translations: Tales of Ugetsu, Tales of Moonlight and Rain)
(1953 - Japan)
With Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Kinuyo Tanaka, Eitaro (Sakae) Ozawa, Mitsuko Mito, Ikio Ozawa
Directed by
Kenji Mizoguchi
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

If uget Suzi like I get Suzie...    Loosely based on several stories from a book of Japanese ghost tales, Kenji Mizoguchi's UGETSU is a morality play with the message "be careful what you wish for."  Set in Japan's turbulent 16th Century (the favorite period for many Japanese directors), UGETSU tells the tales of two peasant brothers with different ambitions - one to be rich, the other to become a samurai - who don't let anything stop them in their quest to achieve their dreams, not even the protest of their wives.  

     A beautiful, lyrical film, UGETSU gains much from the realism the actors bring to the roles of the peasants and their wives.  Especially effective is Masayuki Mori as Genjuro, a potter who expects to get rich from selling his wares, and Mitsuko Mito as Miyagi, his long-suffering wife, who only wishes a simple, peaceful life. The potter's tale takes a strange turn when he is seduced by a mysterious and beautiful noblewoman, Lady Wakasa, played by the top-billed Machiko Kyo.  Kyo, the young bride raped by the thief in Kurosawa's RASHOMON and later Lotus Blossom in the American TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON, plays Lady Wakasa as a Nōh character, her every movement filled with grace, dignity and mystery.  Although she can be seen as the villain of the film, Lady Wakasa is actually closely linked with the wives, another female character simply longing for love and happiness.  Mizoguchi, known as a "woman's" director, presents more sympathetic female characters in this one film than Kurosawa does in any five or six combined.

     Writing about UGETSU without mentioning the otherworldly twists is nearly impossible, so it will suffice to say that despite its simplicity - or perhaps because of it - Ugetsu remains one of the most elegant gems of world cinema. ½ - JB

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