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Ugetsu - Criterion Collection (1953)

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyô, Kinuyo Tanaka, Mitsuko Mito, Eitarô Ozawa
  • Directors: Kenji Mizoguchi
  • Writers: Akinari Ueda, Hisakazu Tsuji, Matsutarô Kawaguchi, Yoshikata Yoda
  • Producers: Masaichi Nagata
  • Format: Black & White, Dolby, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: Nov. 15 2005
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B000BB14I0
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #41,074 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

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
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: VHS Tape
To me Ugetsu is the most hypnotic and well-developed example of Mizoguchi's style - he was working at his peak here. His usual technique - "one scene, one cut" - gives the film a gliding, sinuous beauty. Every scene features slowly, continuously-changing movement, and the entire film is a tour-de-foce of subtle symbolism and gripping storytelling. One of my favorite qualities of Ugetsu is the genre-defying elements in the story - suspense, adventure, period-drama, supernatural horror - and how skillfully Mizoguchi's refined and unforgettable visual style ties it all together. Ugetsu in particular also showcases Mizoguchi's proto-feminism (by subtly underlining the hubris that men can often fall prey to, causing undue hardship to the women around them) in a subtle but mature fashion, and in this light the film could be viewed as a period-drama metaphor for shifting social values in postwar Japan. In any case this is a complex and gorgeous masterpiece that will haunt you long after viewing. If ever there was a film that needed to be issued on DVD this would be it (along with many of Mizoguchi's other films, many of which are completely unavailable in the US). This one is worth going out of your way to see.
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By A Customer on June 22 2002
Format: VHS Tape
If you love Japanese movies, this is a must-have film. Mizoguchi was one of the world's best directors. The homecoming scene near the end of Ugetsu is one of the great moments in cinema. Note the way that scene was shot. The cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa is without equal. This movie has more memorable scenes than just about any other film I've watched.
The basic plot of Ugetsu involves two peasants who go off to seek fame and fortune. Their adventures end up having disastrous consequences for their wives. Mizoguchi's films often focus on the plight of women who are victimized by greedy and selfish men. Another theme is how a woman's love can save a man from his follies. In his own life, Mizoguchi reportedly despised his father. His mother died when he was a teenager and his elder sister was sold as a Geisha.
Ugetsu has many other themes, including the illusionary nature of life. But if all of this seems too heavy, just enjoy the movie for its stunning cinematography. You won't be disappointed.
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