Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ugetsu monogatari (1953)

*****
Japan

The post-Rashomon era was a terrific one for Japanese cinema in that not only did it bring forth several of the greatest films ever made, but these masterpieces were also assured of the international exposure that would have eluded them just a few years earlier. One of the major beneficiaries of Kurosawa's success was Kenji Mizoguchi's rich, serene ghost story/morality tale, which cleaned up at international film festivals before making it into many highly respected top tens.
Adapted from two stories by Akinari Ueda (a staple of 18th Century Japanese literature), it concerns the vacillating fortunes of two peasant couples during the feudal wars of the 1860s. The plot has the makings of a vast, sweeping saga, but the film's most arresting sequences are its most intimate. Mizoguchi intersperses his wise observations on human fundamentals like greed, desire and patriarchy with the utmost elegance, taking great care not to interrupt the dreamy flow and poetry you'd expect of a piece titled "Tales of a Pale and Mysterious Moon After the Rain".

dir: Kenji Mizoguchi
ph: Kazuo Miyagawa
m: Fumio Hayasaka, Tamekichi Mochizuki, Ichirô Saitô
cast: Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyô, Kinuyo Tanaka, Eitarô Ozawa, Mitsuko Mito, Ikio Sawamura, Kikue Môri, Ryosuke Kagawa

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