Ugetsu; Ugetsu Monogatari

500. UGETSU (Ugetsu Monogatari) (1953-japan). With MACHIKO KYO. Directed BY KENJI MIZOGUCHl. This timeless and poignant tale Of romance, seduction, ambition and the supernatural won the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival, and- along with Kurosawa’s Rashomon-was among the first Japanese movies to achieve worldwide success. In 16th-cenlury Japan, during a period Of brutal civil warfare, two peasants leave their village and families, determined to gain fame and fortune: one as a celebrated warrior, the other as a wealthy potter. Each learns that success has a painfully high price. The first docs become a samurai, but through immoral methods, and with disastrous results: his abandoned wife is raped, and, feeling dishonored, she turns to prostitution. The secÂond man meets a mysterious and beautiful woman, who lures him to her mansion and into a spellbinding love afÂfair. She turns out to be the ghost Of a princess who, having died loveless, now seduces men to their doom. After breaking the spell, the potter returns home and is reunited with his loyal wife. But previously we saw her being violently attacked by starving men and left, apparently dying, on the road. Is she yet another ghost? The haunting con elusion is a magnificent expression Of the transcendent power Of love, the vanity Of greed, and the triumph Of spirit over death. Mizoguchi, who had boon a painter, dazzles us with one exquisite composition and camera movement after another. His evocation Of the supernatural is extremely delicate (and therefore even more startling because its subtlety catches us Off guard}. The film is also a revealing reflection Of post-World War II Japan, which, having experienced defeat and devastation recognized that the old “realities” had given way to overwhelming uncertainties. On any level-melodrama, social commentary, or visual art-this is one Of the world’s great masterpieces. In Japanese with English subtitles. 98 minutes. Drama