Ugetsu Monogatari (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)
A tale of ambition, family, love, and war set in the midst of the Japanese Civil Wars of the sixteenth century.
Mizoguchi (1898-1956) was famous for the theory that one scene should equal one cut, although sometimes he made exceptions. The great Yasujiro Ozu had the same theory, with the difference that Ozu's camera never moved in his later films, while Mizoguchi's style was constructed around flowing, poetic camera movement. Consider a scene where Lady Wakasa visits Genjuro as he is bathing in an outdoor pool, and as she enters the pool to join him, water splashes over the side and the camera follows the splash into a pan across rippling water that ends with the two of them having a picnic on the grass.
The period detail is accurate and rich. The city marketplace, the headquarters of the samurai, Tobei's visit to a shop to buy armor and a spear, Genjuro's haste when he asks another merchant to watch his prized pots (for he must hurry after Lady Wakasa) -- all of these create a feudal world in which life is hard and escape comes through the silly dreams of men. Women are more cautious, and there is a blunt realism in the sequence where Miyagi, left behind, tries to protect and feed their son as armies loot and rape the countryside. At the end of "Ugetsu," aware we have seen a fable, we also feel curiously as if we have witnessed true lives and fates. Roger Ebert.
Garry Gillard | New: 18 June, 2020 | Now: 18 June, 2020