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The Magic of Mizo

The great Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi was born on this day in 1898. His masterpiece Ugetsu is my favorite movie to show in Intro to Film classes to exemplify Japan’s astonishingly rich post-World War II period. It shares a rotating slot with Ozu’s Tokyo Story, Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Mizoguchi’s own Sansho the Bailiff.

Akira Kurosawa is the most famous Japanese — nay Asian — director of all time. This is in part because his Rashomon won the top prize at the Venice International Film Festival in 1951 (then as now one of the top three most prestigious film festivals in the world), thus opening up the floodgates for international companies to acquire then-exotic Japanese movies and distribute them widely in the West for the very first time. Abetting Kurosawa’s fame was the fact that he made his movies, especially his samurai films, in a style that was arguably already familiar to Western audiences. Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, for instance, would be unthinkable without the classic Hollywood westerns of the ’40s and ’50s. Of course, these chambara classics in turn ended up being massively influential on American and European westerns in the 1960s. And that kind of give-and-take is how the language of cinema evolves.

Ironically (or not depending on how you look at it), Kurosawa was a relative newbie when he made his international breakthrough; he had only started directing during the second World War. The other high-profile Japanese directors of the country’s post-war boom years (Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, Keinosuke Tinugasa, etc.) had been around since the silent era. Of these elder statesmen, all of whose films were to a greater or lesser extent “more Japanese” than Kurosawa’s, Mizoguchi enjoyed the greatest international success. From 1952 through 1954, he won an unprecedented three Best Director prizes in three consecutive years at the Venice International Film Festival for his late period masterpieces The Life of Oharu, Ugetsu and Sansho the Bailiff. Of these, my favorite is Ugetsu, a unique war movie/melodrama/ghost story hybrid.

Although many of Mizoguchi’s most celebrated films fall into the same “jidai-geki” (or period drama) genre as those of Kurosawa, the approaches of the two directors could not be more different. Where Kurosawa’s period movies tended to be swiftly paced, action-oriented samurai pictures focusing almost exclusively on male characters, Mizoguchi’s are closer to melodrama, with a particular focus on the suffering of women throughout Japan’s tumultuous political history. The other chief difference between the two is in their approach to visual style. Where Kurosawa favors pan shots with a telephoto lens and brisk cutting (including a unique signature use of “wipe” transitions), Mizoguchi’s films unfold at a slower pace but with no less of a flamboyant approach to the image; the cutting is certainly slower in Mizoguchi but the camera is almost constantly moving. In Ugetsu approximately 70% of the shots are crane shots, the most logistically difficult type of camera movement to execute but one that allows the camera to move seemingly anywhere. “The pictures should roll out like scrolls,” Mizoguchi informed cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa before shooting began.

The title Ugetsu (or Ugetsu Monogatari as it is known in Japan) literally translates as “Tales of Moonlight and Rain,” an appropriately poetic title for this most poetic of movies. The film draws on three short stories, Akinari Ueda’s “The House in the Thicket” and “A Serpent’s Lust” and Guy de Maupassant’s “How He Got the Legion of Honor,” to tell the story of the sentimental education of two peasants who attempt to become war profiteers in late 16th century Japan: Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) is a potter who plans on selling his wares to soldiers in a civil war-torn domain. His neighbor, Tobei (Eitarô Ozawa), accompanies him to assist in transporting and selling the pottery but has the underlying motive of becoming a great samurai warrior. Both men abandon their wives but with the intention of returning home someday covered in wealth and fame. As is typical of Mizoguchi, the plight of the abandoned women, one of whom is murdered by starving soldiers and one of whom is forced into prostitution, is just as important as that of their male counterparts.

Ugetsu is a film known for its extraordinary “set pieces,” individual sequences that, in their lyricism and beauty, rank with the most evocative and richly detailed passages in all of cinema. One such episode is the famous “phantom boat” sequence, where all four protagonists travel from their hometown of Nakanogo across Lake Biwa by boat to reach the marketplace in Nagahama. (Since Tobei’s wife Ohama is the daughter of a boatman, she is the one who pilots the boat across the lake.) The ghostly atmosphere of this scene, which involved seamlessly blending shooting on location with shooting in a giant water tank inside of Daiei Studios, is achieved through Mizoguchi’s magical mise-en-scene; the low-key lighting, dense fog and elaborate tracking shots combine to create flowing, painterly images that are spellbinding in their intensity. Greatly adding to this hypnotic quality is a spare soundtrack, on which we hear the singing of Ohama (Mitsuko Mito) accompanied by the sound of a simple, non-diegetic metronomic drumbeat. In the middle of the lake, another boat emerges from the fog. It contains a lone passenger, whom our protagonists initially mistake for a ghost. The man reassures them in a whisper that he is not an apparition but a dying man whose boat was overtaken by pirates who inflicted his mortal wounds. He warns them to return home and then promptly dies. Genjuro and Tobei say prayers for the man as they push the boat away and continue on their journey. The steady drumbeat continues. The men will soon abandon their wives. Mizoguchi has foreshadowed the true supernatural occurrences that will be forthcoming in Ugetsu.

In Nagahama, Genjuro and Tobei split up. They both ironically achieve their dreams: Tobei attains the status of a great warrior almost by accident and Genjuro’s pottery business becomes phenomenally successful through the patronage of a single client — the aristocratic but mysterious Lady Wakasa. This latter plot thread leads to my favorite scene: after she convinces him to deliver his wares to her mansion in person, Lady Wakasa seduces Genjuro and persuades him to marry her (in spite of the fact that he is already married). Initially drunk on his good fortune (as well as what one presumes is incredible sex), Genjuro’s elation soon turns to skepticism and eventually fear as he realizes his new bride is actually a ghost. Late one evening, Lady Wakasa asks Genjuro to return with her to her “native land.” He refuses, telling her of his other wife and child and his desire to return to his true home. Lady Wakasa attempts to touch Genjuro but recoils in horror; a Buddhist priest who knew of the Lady’s true identity has painted protective prayers all over Genjuro’s body. She tells him to wash off the offending characters but Genjuro draws his sword, swinging it wildly about as he exits the manor for good.

What is remarkable about this sequence isn’t what happens on a narrative level but rather the spooky mood that Mizoguchi is able to so effectively conjure through his total mastery of film form. The interior of Lady Wakasa’s manor is lit by pronounced chiaroscuro (the conscious interplay of light and shadow), which becomes increasingly dark as Genjuro slices the illuminating candles with his sword. The lighting here resembles nothing so much as the deliberate artifice of the German Expressionist films of the 1920s. And, as in a film by Murnau, the crane-mounted camera constantly follows the movement of the characters throughout the scene, not only laterally but vertically as well. Finally, all of this action unfolds to the accompaniment of a creepy, dissonant musical score (credited to three composers: Fumio Hayasaka, Tamekichi Mochizuki and Ichirô Saitô), featuring eclectic arrangements involving instruments both Japanese and Western (dig that wailing saxophone!).

But none of these individual set pieces would matter if the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, Mizoguchi manages to string these scenes together like pearls on a necklace as the underlying themes (greed, the folly of ambition, the suffering of civilians during wartime) coalesce in the film’s sublime resolution; Tobei the newly-anointed samurai meets his wife Ohama as a newly-indoctrinated prostitute in a brothel. Both characters, overwhelmed by a complex combination of relief, shame, happiness and grief, return home and vow to start over. Genjuro likewise returns home to find his wife and child gone. In a legendary shot, Mizoguchi’s camera circumscribes a 360-degree pan around the tiny hut, beginning with an empty room but ending on Genjuro’s wife Miyagi (Kinuyo Tanaka) where no character had stood before. Delighted to be reunited with his family, Genjuro falls asleep with his infant son in his arms. The next morning however, Genjuro awakes to the realization that, while his son is safe and sound, his wife died some time ago and the Miyagi he saw only hours earlier is now too a ghost. Like the wedding guest in Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Tobei and Genjuro are now sadder but wiser men.

Ugetsu is available from the Criterion Collection in an excellent standard DVD edition. But a film with cinematography of this magnitude deserves a Blu-ray upgrade.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

30 responses to “The Magic of Mizo

  • Melissa

    Combining elements of ghost stories within the film, Ugetsu was able to unfold the stories of death and hardships that the people of the late 16th century Japan experienced. Mizoguchi’s focus on the suffering of women throughout Japan’s political history was strongly shown with the characters of Miyagi and Ohama. The use of crane shots throughout scenes increased the frantic emotions expressed by the characters as they experienced crazy situations of ghosts and death.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks for being the first to respond, Melissa. I am glad you described the crane shots as increasing the “frantic emotions” of the characters. Such crane shots would, of course, be out of place in films as different as GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES or BICYCLE THIEVES. But Mizoguchi knew that form should always be perfectly married to content and that having images that “rolled out like scrolls” would be appropriate to this particular story and these specific characters.

  • Ben

    The abundance of crane shots act almost as a vantage points in the film, using fluid camera motion as a wordless narrative that tells a story all its own. At times, we are to take in the marvelous set for a brief moment, only to zoom and focus in on the characters in the scene. While doing so, the narrating camera seems to float ethereally through space and time, yet it feels natural, weaving in and out of bustling crowds just as if it has taken place of a character itself. 

    A lot of the instruments that are played in the soundtrack, and those that are shown (I recall a biwa player in the Kutsuki mansion…) are traditional instruments historically accurate to the period (as is the set, clothes, armor, etc…) The soundtrack complements every spent watching and is as emursive as the film itself. The silent moments in between every dull beat on the skin head of a drum is what makes moments, such as the boat scene, so eerie, and the contrast of the hauntingly beautiful melody of a bowed double bass, unworldly, saxophone screams, and a trilling traditional flute, (not to mention, the monotone, foreign language that, at this point, sounds almost like a chant) gives Genjuro’s ghost confrontation scene a much darker, climactic tone compared to any other scene in the film. 

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks for your detailed comments, especially concerning the music, Ben. I was hoping that you, being a musician, would offer some analysis from that angle since the original score is so striking. Your description of the “dull beat on the skin head of the drum” is what I referred to as “metronomic percussion.” Your phrase is better and more detailed than mine!

  • Lindy

    I think it is interesting in this movie that we see the rougher, less beautiful side of life as a Japanese woman during these times. I think it is easy to write off these times as a simpler, kinder time while actually things are just as bad if not worse than they are now. Ohama being forced into prostitution is a dark side of history that we don’t see very often. When you open a text book it doesn’t tell you about how sometimes this was the only option for women in this situation. Miyagi’s story too is often romanticized in retrospect. It is easy to imagine Miyagi staying home patiently awaiting her husband return. When in reality it was a harsh world and bad things happened to good people. I appreciate Mizoguchi’s fearlessness to show stories like this.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Way to bring the feminism, Lindy! The fact that Mizoguchi doesn’t romanticize the lives of Japanese women during this era is important. Remember that everyone who viewed this movie in a theater in Japan in 1953 had lived and suffered through Japan’s ignominious defeat in WW2. The film would not have resonated with contemporary female viewers (all of whom had experienced hardships on the homefront) if it either ignored the wives or presented them in a beautiful, “exotic” way. A lot of Mizoguchi’s other best films (e.g., THE LIFE OF OHARU) focus even more closely on female characters.

  • Ron Mark

    It would be easy to say this movie is about the struggle of the male ego between fear and greed($) but that would be to simplistic. At its core it is a ghost story and uses the crane shots, erie lighting, flute enhanced soundtrack to create a sweeping, hypnotic film.The ‘phantom boat’ scene is the most beautiful and yet the simplest to determine who is real and who/what is a ghost. The predominance of the rest movie always engages the audience to discern from the action what is fantasy and what is reality. This duality of fear and greed, fantasy and reality, and romance and suffering is at the heart of the ghost story. No verdict is returned, both sides have their virtue.
    Interesting to note that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was made the same year. In GPB the beautiful glamorous and intelligent side of american women is championed in an upbeat lavish comedy versus the dour tone and anti-feminist plight of post war Japan.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Good job noting how the film asks us to discern what is real and what is not, Ron. UGETSU also does present a nice contrast with GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES in just about every way imaginable. Of course, I’m glad that my options of what films I can watch aren’t just confined to one end of the spectrum or the other: I love ’em both!

  • Veronicca Esguerra

    I think one of the most interesting things about the film for me was the fact that you got to see the struggles of the war and the effects it had on multiple people. Each character I think had their own struggle and it was interesting to see how it all came together in the end. I think one of the messages the film has, is the fact that you shouldn’t take what you have for granted. It shows how everyone has ambitions and dreams but if you take what you have for granted and don’t appreciate it in the moment once you get to where you want to be, it might not be as enjoyable as you might have hoped.

    I also thought the use of crane shots also added a lot to the film and the story. One shot in particular that I thought was really good was the scene where it goes from the hot springs over to the field where genjuro and lady wakes a were having a picnic. I think the use of a crane shot really helped in this film, especially in this scene be chase it really gets you to feel like the whole thing is a dream.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Well said re: the film’s message about not taking what one has for granted.

      The crane shot you describe that begins in the hot spring (at night) and ends in the field (during the day) is astonishing. I used to wonder how Mizoguchi did it since the characters appear in both locations only seconds apart. After watching it a few times I realized there is a cleverly disguised cut in the middle of the shot.

  • Patrick Keenan

    As much as I got while trying to read the subtitles (the characters talked fast at time) and getting a glimpse of the scenario and what’s going on I did find it hard to follow. Although, the techniques the Director used fit really well in this film. This is one of those films that I could not imagine being in color. I really enjoyed the views that I saw in the movie such as the end where you can see from afar over the hill two workers in the field. Using crane shots in cinema is difficult, but the cinematographer definitely showed amazing crane shots with great skills.

    Some parts of this film I thought were creepy, such as when there’s a closeup of the statue the music in the background gets louder and sounds fast paced. What I took away from watching Ugetsu is that men try to support as best as they can for their wife and kids and sometimes they bite a little more than they can to do that. My example is how Tobee really feels that he needs to leave his wife and kid so that he can try to become a Samurai, but he can’t because he doesn’t have enough money for the outfit, so instead Tobee and his friend Genjuro try to sell their pottery to make money for food and an outfit while leaving their wives in the endangered village bombarded with soldiers.

    • michaelgloversmith

      The film is genuinely creepy! It is almost a horror movie at times — but, despite the presence of ghosts, it is ultimately about real-world horrors. And good point about the film’s sexual politics: it makes me ashamed to be a man!

  • Petar Babac

    Ugetsu is a film that transcends the simple premise of a “ghost story” and emerges as one that comments on the very nature of humanity and our need for advancement even during times of war, in fact it is only because of war that the two characters can even advance, but the director also implies that war brings misery and death…this is an important point that needs to be highlighted because it transcends national borders and speaks directly towards the human condition, allowing Ugetsu to be loved and UNDERSTOOD in the Western world.

    The film director is very good at reaching into the realm off horror and suspense when constructing the “ghost Story” half of the film and to combine both halves into one whole that works beautifully in tandem, as you said, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts simply because a story about war generally lacks heart and stories about ghosts (no matter how sincere or interesting) lack a certain amount of legitimacy as serious pieces of film that demand scholarly review. However a story of war with HINT no mater subtle or not of the supernatural serves to UNDERSCORE (NOT TAKE OVER!) the plot and meaning and integrity of the film itself.
    In the end I see the director as a humanist… it comes as no surprise that Ugetsu is about war and the unintended victims that suffer the most-women, children, the elderly and even those of higher status are not immune and this plays well in any arena WESTERN or EASTERN… Therefore Kurisawa’s masterpiece is a cautionary tale of all those involved in war, to think better about why and how they approach thoughts of war, and that war brings out Greed, Destitution, and the eventual discord found within ANY society Western or Eastern.

    In the end the film has a subtle mocking tone to it, making those who are foolish enough to entertain profiting from war think twice, because in the end, all your get is death.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Agreed about the universality and timelessness of this masterpiece. I’ve heard it said that the art that is the most specific to a given culture will also end up being the most universal and I think UGETSU is a good example of that. It is so distinctly Japanese and yet everyone can relate to it. One brief correction to your comments though: UGETSU was directed by Mizoguchi, not Kurosawa.

  • Sebastian Kocik

    After watching Ugetsu, the only thing I had on my mind was suicide.
    I truly believe that Twilight was a better love story than Ugetsu, where the director combined the living and the dead as a form of illusion for romantic purposes between Lady Wakasa and Genjuro. For the first fifteen minutes of the movie, I “tried” unsuccessfully to understand Japanese, after which I started following the subtitles.
    The movie showed the struggles of 16th century romance while at war as well as Tobei’s obsession of becoming a samurai, which he was incapable of doing. The movie proved, once again, knew how to manipulate men, even in 16th century Japan (I believe they always knew….), referring to Genjuro’s imaginary relationship with Lady Wakasa and the way she seduced him into believing she was something real. Tobei the samurai wannabe was married to Ohama who was later forced into prostitution. At the end, Ohama is the one who convinces Tobei to leave his samurai desires and come back to reality.
    Ugetsu shows the difficulties of life Japanese citizens faced during war, how everyone had to fight for their valuables in order to survive. Times were hard enough which made food scarce and worth fighting over, which today we don’t necessarily notice because of the different times and perspectives. Kenji Mizoguchi used crane shots, which made the scenes more appropriete for the atmosphere which was on the screen, allowing the viewer to compare and contrast the differences; for example the market scene. Overall, Ugetsu projected one of the most oppressive and melancholy feeling’s a viewer could experience, which I am sure is exactly what Mizoguchi was attempting to do considering the fact that the film was recorded in Japan after the destruction they experienced during WWII.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Why would you try to understand the Japanese dialogue (a language I feel quite sure you don’t speak) for the first 15 minutes of the movie BEFORE reading the English subtitles?

      Expressing a preference for TWILIGHT over UGETSU is like expressing a preference for the saxophone stylings of Kenny G over that of John Coltrane.

  • kerr evangelista

    Ugetsu was such a powerful movie dis playing all the hardships and atrocities of war such as Genjuro’s wife being killed over food and Tobei’s wife being raped and eventually go into prostitution. Even though these plot lines were so powerful, I had my eyes and mind set on something else.
    The set and the scenery for this film was just beautiful and second to none. The shot of the group when they were going through the water was so pretty, even though there was no color in the background the scenes in this film were just as lively and beautiful. I also loved the shots of the city and all the beautiful and accurate depictions of the buildings. I think I think people love and appreciate this movie so much because Mizoguchi kept the authenticity and complete accuracy of the past in everything he did in the film.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks for the comments, Kerr. I’m glad you commented on the visual beauty of the film in general and the lake scene in particular. There’s an almost ironic discrepancy, I think, between the extreme beauty of the film’s painterly textures and the suffering of the characters. There is genius in this juxtaposition.

  • Brian Choi

    Ugetsu displays and exemplifies an accurate description of the catastrophe in Japan after the war. Two male partners, one is who is consumed by greed, the other by envy. They both risk their family and their lives in order to achieve their obsessions and earn money. Not only them, but it shows the struggles and hardships of their wives throughout the film. One was driven into prostitution while the other was mercilessly murdered by starving soldiers being left alone .
    The abundant use of crane shots allowed us to view Ugestu unlike any other film. It allows us to see the film in total different perspective that tells a story itself on its own. The remarkable lake scene in the film is probably the most alluring and dazzling scene setting/scene in the film. The scene creates a world of fog and mist, out of which emerges a lone boatman who warns them of pirates. The use of beating drums in the background gives off a chilly vibe during this beautiful scene.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Nice obversations, Brian. I had never thought about each of the male leads being associated with a different “sin” (envy and greed) but I think you are correct and that’s a fascinating observation. If we were to extend this analysis to the entire cast of characters I’m sure we could check off all of the seven deadly sins (e.g., lust in the rape of Ohama, etc.)!

  • Dimitriya M

    The theme of this movie is that people need to learn to appreciate things that they have. A perfect example of that would be the two neighbors Genjuro and Tobei who leave their families and houses behind in order to search for something better or to follow an illusion of something “better”. Unfortunately at the end one of them lost his wife while the other one had his wife became a prostitute. Was it all worth it?? I don’t think so. Tobei and Genjruo were also regretting of the way things worked out for them and we can see that in the scene where Tobei sees his wife as a prostitute and when Genjuro gets back home. The scene where Tobei meets with his wife and sees her as a prostitute, his facial expressions are anger, sadness, surprise and even guilt I could say. Genjuro does not even get to see his wife. He sees her ghost. Genjuro also regrets and feels sorry based on the conversation he had with his wife’s ghost. It is not bad to be ambitious and have goals to achieve, but overall learn to respect and value what you already have.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Nice analysis of UGETSU’s “the grass is always greener” theme, Dimitriya. I agree with you but what I think is remarkable is the film’s compassioante tone. Mizoguchi is not being moralistic or judging his characters too harshly for their mistakes. He’s saying, “This is how people always have been. This is how people always will be.” Buddhism.

  • Manish Patel

    I thought the film did a great job portraying how money can make you blind. Often times in life you forget about what is really important like family, and become too concerned about money. Money is important to help get through certain obstacles in life but one needs to understand that without family, or anyone to share the joys of having the money with, money means absolutely nothing, it is invaluable. In the film, Genjuro realizes this once it is too late and he has already lost his wife. Overall great film.

  • Danielle Lohens

    Mizoguchi was able to create a wonderful film due to his mise-en-scene. His control over all the elements within the film was obvious. He was very aware of everything going on in the frame. I agree that the extraordinary “set pieces” added to the beauty and creepiness of the film. His recreation of 16th century Japan was both beautiful and accurate. It was also understated so that the audience could focus on the storyline. His use of crane shots, long shots, long takes, and lighting also allowed the audience to view the story in a unique way. The use of long shots allowed the audience to choose what to focus on. The use of long takes allowed the movie to feel real. The audience was able to watch the scenes unfold like real life. The storyline had many aspects. I agree that it was a war movie, melodrama, and ghost story. It was also a samurai tale. Mizoguchi had a lot to say about the effect man have on women and the suffering women feel. The combination of these genres and the theme of ambition exemplified his thoughts and feelings. Even though the film was in a language I did not know, I thought the dialogue was very powerful. Genjuro says to Miyagi, “Money is everything, without it, life is hard and hope dies.” I believe that life is hard without money, but money is definitely not everything and there can always be hope whether you have money or not. Miyagi responds by saying the only thing that makes her happy is being at home with her husband and child, she does not care for money. The theme that war changes people is also very prevalent in the film. It is stated that “war drives us mad with ambition.” I believe that ambition is not a bad thing but could be. The war drove Tobei and Genjuro mad with ambition. Their ambition ruined the lives of their wives.In the end they both realized that their wives happiness and safety were more important than money or anything else.

  • Adam Rajchwald

    Hi professor smith. i see a lot of responses about ambition, war, and the males’ greed. While these are definitely notable themes, i think they weren’t as important as Mizo’s depiction of the female supporting character. They were portrayed and constantly reinforced as the bedrock of rationality to their respective husbands. They would smack the sense into them when they needed while they were blinded by their foolish ambitions and greed. Ultimately, this film faces a stark deconstruction in the characters’ relationships. Both wives find bleak ends in death and prostitution(respectively) and meet their demise for the sake of their husbands. I think this reality extremely interesting. Two loyal characters who would do anything for the greater good of the family, supporting their husbands ambitions regardless of what they are depicts the japanese ideal housewife

  • kelly satorre

    i enjoyed this film because the contrast shown between the husband/wife relationship. Mizoguchi displays the men as the breadwinner of the family. To me it seemed like the wives were the central pivot point in the relationship, burdening a majority of the stress(cooking,taking care of child, supporting husbands). One of my favorite scenes was the foggy boat in the river. I felt haunted and curious in the setting in the fog, and it placed a damp mood on the viewing experience. The camera work in that scene really popped out to me and made me appreciate Mizoguchi’s skill as a director

  • Vergel Dominic Mapanoo

    The movie really made me think about the theme of dreams and chasing them. I found it ironic that when Genjuro was with his family, it was his dream to become rich. But then when he had become rich, his dream was to be with his family again.
    It was also nice to see all the camera work done in this movie. In many scenes, Tobei was scene crawling and sprawling about. The camera would always follow him going up, as if it made his beggar like properties more real. Mizoguchi’s idea to take long shots really made me feel it was actually going on: as if the movie was a constantly rolling scroll. And it really wouldn’t be the same film if it wasn’t in black and white. Great film to show how life was during turmoil in Japan and to show the ambitions of humans.

  • Nadine

    Ugetsu was an interesting film. It made me think about how hard it must have been for the characters to go through what they did while mixing the ghost stories with reality. It wasn’t only one character that got affected either. Tobei’s wife who was basically forced into prostitution while he went on to be a samari and Genjuro’s wife who had been left with the child expected to wait for her husband to return safe and sound but instead got killed. Even though for me it was a little confusing, i thought that it was a really great film. I enjoyed the many beautiful shots. for example when they were all getting onto the boat to escape, it looked like a painting with the water and the reflections.

  • Alexis Chavero

    This film was definitely very intriguing in the sense that An american audience is exposed to the horrible things that occurred in Japan after the war because of the fact that the US has never really gone through such horrible things. This country’s experience are so much different in terms of suffering and tragedy. Its almost as if Mizoguchi were to say “and you thought you had it bad.” With that being said, the suffering of women is definitely emphasized, showing the difference between men an womens experiences very clearly (men’s being better the majority of the time). The use of crane shots through out the entire film are very smooth and subtle, in which at first i thought they would be very obvious and upfront but instead flow nicely with the film to the point that some shots I did not even realize were crane shots.

  • Johnny Woo

    Ugetzu is a movie about two farmers that try to get rich quick by taking advantage of the war to sell pottery in a big city. The price they pay for the riches is the price of their wives dignity and in genjuro’s case, life. Mizoguchi does a great job blending in the genres of horror, romance, war movies without us really expecting the normal conventions of each particular genre. The use of camera angles really brings out the genre, especially horror. The 360 shot of genjuro walking around the house where miyagi appears when he returns bring out an eerie feel without even having to do much.

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