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Ugetsu - Criterion Collection (1953)

Masayuki Mori , Machiko Ky˘ , Kenji Mizoguchi    Unrated   DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 42.99 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Ugetsu - Criterion Collection (1953) + Sansho the Baliff (The Criterion Collection)
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Hailed by critics as one of the greatest films ever made, Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu is an undisputed masterpiece of Japanese cinema, revealing greater depths of meaning and emotion with each successive viewing. Mizoguchi's exquisite "gender tragedy" is set during Japan's violent 16th-century civil wars, a historical context well-suited to the director's compassionate perspective on the plight of women and the foibles of men. The story focuses on two brothers, Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) and Tobei (Sakae Ozawa), whose dreams of glory (one as a wealthy potter, the other a would-be samurai) cause them to leave their wives for the promise of success in Kyoto. Both are led astray by their blind ambitions, and their wives suffer tragic fates in their absence, as Ugetsu evolves into a masterful mixture of brutal wartime realism and haunting ghost story. The way Mizoguchi weaves these elements so seamlessly together is what makes Ugetsu (masterfully derived from short stories by Akinari Ueda and Guy de Maupassant) so challenging and yet deeply rewarding as a timeless work of art. Featuring flawless performances by some of Japan's greatest actors (including Machiko Kyo, from Kurosawa's Rashomon), Ugetsu is essential viewing for any serious lover of film. --Jeff Shannon

DVD features
The Criterion Collection's high standards of scholarly excellence are on full display in the two-disc set of Ugetsu, packaged in an elegant slipcase reflecting the tonal beauty of the film itself, which has been fully restored with a high-definition digital transfer. The well-prepared commentary by critic/filmmaker Tony Rayns combines the astute observations of a serious cineaste (emphasizing a keen appreciation for Mizoguchi's long-take style, compositional meaning, and literary inspirations) with informative biographical and historical detail. In the 14-minute featurette "Two Worlds Intertwined," director Masahiro Shinoda discusses how Mizoguchi's career and films have had a lasting impact on himself and Japanese culture in general. Interviews with Tokuzo Tanaka (first assistant director on Ugetsu) and cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa focus more specifically on anecdotal production history Mizoguchi's working methods, including the director's legendary perfectionism regarding painstaking details of props, costumes, and production design.

Disc 2 consists entirely of Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Film Director, a 150-minute documentary from 1975. Though it occasionally gets bogged down in biographical minutia, the film provides a thoroughly comprehensive survey of Mizoguchi's career, including interviews with nearly all of Mizoguchi's primary collaborators. Director/interviewer Kaneto Shindo ultimately arrives at an emotionally devastating coup de grace when he informs the great actress Kinuyo Tanaka (star of The Life of Oharu and other Mizoguchi classics) that Mizoguchi had considered her "the love of his life." Tanaka's graceful response provides a moving appreciation of their artistic bond, which never evolved into romance. As we learn, the tragic irony of Mizoguchi's life is that he died in sadness and suffering, in 1956, just as he was entering a more hopeful and artistically revitalized period of middle age. After showing us all the locations that were important in Mizoguchi's life, the film closes with a blunt discovery of life's ethereal nature: The great director's final home was torn down and replaced with a gas station. The 72-page booklet that accompanies Ugestu contains a well-written appreciation of the film by critic Phillip Lopate. Also included are the three short stories that inspired Ugetsu, allowing readers to see how Mizoguchi and screenwriter Yoshikata Yoda masterfully combined elements of these unrelated stories to create one of the enduring classics of Japanese cinema. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable Piece Of Work Jan. 19 2004
Format:VHS Tape
Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) makes pottery and dreams of the day he and his family will be rich. Tobei (Eitaro Ozawa) wants to become a samurai. At its core "Ugetsu" is a story about greed, betrayal, & loyalty. But, what makes this movie so good is how subtle its approach is. Director Kenji Mizoquchi doesn't shove these themes down our throats. The movie is not motivated by plot formulas but rather by its characters. It's our understanding and the fact that we begin to feel a connection between them and ourselves that leads us to watch the movie. The biggest praise I can give the film is by saying it's one of those movies you don't want to end. We are too involved and feel we need to know more.
Mizoquchi after this film earned the reputation of becoming a great "women's director", and the performances by Kinuyo Tanaka (who plays Genjuro's wife) and Ikio Sawamura (Tobei's wife) are standouts. And at times do steal the scenes, as does a wonderful performance from Machiko Kyo (Lady Wakasa).
"Ugetsu" is considered by some critics and filmgoers as one of the most beautiful films ever made. It was even once listed in "sight & sound"s poll as one of the ten greatest films ever. And such acclaim is rightfully deserved. It is a masterful piece of work. People should make an efort to see it. It has a lasting effect.
Bottom-line: The kind of movie you wish wouldn't end. Contains standout acting from the entire cast and memorable cinematography. One of the all-time best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful exercise of Japanese filmmaking Aug. 15 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Ugetsu is a film that separates itself from both period pieces of its time and from Japanese film of any era. It neither has the ferocious, exiting energy that Kurosawa successfully utilized, nor the slow mundane nature that Ozu became known for. Rather it attempts (successfully) to give a drawn out, slightly surrealistic atmosphere that exhibits images of lingering beauty throughout its short length. What drew me into the film deepest was the usage of not style or substance (if that makes sense), but rather these images that remained on your mind long after the film was finished. A sabotaged boat drifting away in the fog with nothing but a dead man aboard, an enchantress’ seduction of a naive peasant and a landscape dotted with danger and war, all make up some of the most beautiful images, that would not be out of place in a painting. They alone say more then most films do in their entire message.
The film nonetheless has some very impressive subject matter to its credit, dealing with war, greed and the line between reality and the spiritual world. Throughout the film we see two peasants progressively grow to lust for the riches of the world, Genjur˘ desires to sell his wares and become wealthy, while Tobei desires to be a samurai and have power. In time they both get to a point where this is a reality, where one of them fulfills what he desires, the other is led into a surrealistic haze by a demonic seductress. In the end the loss of what was important all along becomes apparent, and a message of humility becomes the films point.
Though it is not nearly as accessible a film as Kurosawa’s period pieces of the same time, Ugetsu succeeds on a level that they do not. It brings an element of sheer beauty I have not been acquainted with by any Japanese director.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What are the Important Things in Life? April 11 2004
Format:VHS Tape
Despite some disturbing scenes and issues, this is a beautiful movie. It tells the story of how the search for money and glory can destroy true happiness. What makes the story work is a lot of different things. First of all, the acting is very good. Watching in in subtitles (there wasn't any other option) helped with appreciating this facet of the movie. The scenery and costumes were pretty good as well. The directing was what was the most outstanding. I confess that I have a problem with most modern movies in that they show a heavy dependance on modern technology and declining moral standards. This enables modern films to utilize two avenues of showing more and more which leaves less and less to the imagination. The talent on display in "Ugetsu" shows how directing at its' best was a true art form; greater, often, than the acting itself. There are several scenes that come to mind. As soldiers rape and pillage, there comes a scene of a gang rape of a woman. Everything we see on film makes it clear in our minds as to what has taken place. Yet the only clothing we see removed is a pair of sandals. Another scene involves an erotic encounter in which, again we understand clearly yet are not invited to watch. There are other scenes worthy of mention but I don't want to give anything away. The way this movie moves along is another testament to its' director; Kenji Mizoguchi.
On the negative side, this movie is currently only available on VHS. I confess to being frustrated with all of my Beta movies and now all of my VHS movies seeming to head towards obsolescence. However, I have come to appreciate the quality as well as the other features of DVD's. Thus I found myself immediately focussing on the occassional snap, crackle, and pop of the VHS quality.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Can life be like that?
This is a very beautiful movie. My favorite scene is where the potter and Lady Mikasa are having what looks like a picnic by the sea. Read more
Published on April 27 2004 by swtthing
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a fabulous film
Set in the 16th century, Ugetsu is the story of two impoverished families from a small village and the tragedy that befalls both as the male heads of the household seek selfish,... Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2004 by K Scheffler
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Ghost Story
This is a beautifully shot movie. Mizoguchi is a great director of the plight of women in old Japan. Read more
Published on June 11 2003 by Yumi
5.0 out of 5 stars DVD PLEASE! One of the best films I've seen....
To me Ugetsu is the most hypnotic and well-developed example of Mizoguchi's style - he was working at his peak here. Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2002 by David Alston
5.0 out of 5 stars Many memorable scenes
If you love Japanese movies, this is a must-have film. Mizoguchi was one of the world's best directors. Read more
Published on June 22 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars ok
This movie was not the "Masterpiece" that so many have called it. Sure there are a lot of beautiful scenes, but the acting was pretty overdone, at least as far as the... Read more
Published on Sept. 10 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and hard to describe; a classic worth seeing
As much as I adore Kurosawa, I was very glad to get to see Ugetsu Monotagari. This is acknowledged as an enormous classic of Japanese film, but because of the cross-over of... Read more
Published on April 3 2001 by Joanna Daneman
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the greatest movie ever made
Eerie, spellbinding, mystical...Try though I might, it is difficult to convey in words how magical and powerful this movie is. Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2001 by John B
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely haunting as well as peace message
I first saw this when I was a teenager. I wasn't able to understand the reason why Machiko would like this voice and it bothered me. Read more
Published on June 21 2000 by JAMES J CREMIN
5.0 out of 5 stars Kurosawa's equal....
It's sad to see how cruel time and history have been to Kenji Mizoguchi. Whenever the newcomer or uninformed is first exposed to great film, Kurosawa's name is often the first... Read more
Published on June 5 2000 by Carlos R. Pastrana
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