Ugetsu (The Criterion Collection)
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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
Top Customer Reviews
Both men are granted their wishes but it doesn't bring them happiness. In fact it brings them and their wives more pain and grief then they ever knew existed. In the end they realize the happiness they had to begin with, but is it too late?
Perfect in every way, I consider this not only among the greatest films, but also one of the most important. There is a great lesson to learn here about appreciating the true happiness that might be right in front of you or already inside you.
Criterion: a Mizoguchi box set please.
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.Read more ›
Forced out of their homes by an approaching war and uncertain where to go, they take their wares to a thriving market place, where the second peasant's ambition to be a samurai devides them and causes all four characters, the two peasants and their wives, to be separated, all fending for themselves amongst the war and various classes differently.
At this point the film reverses itself and instead of being a pretty skin-deep, tragic bud of greed, it blooms into a beautiful and haunting tale of obsession and illusion. The two main stories of the peasants and their wives are opposite only in their imaged realism, where one peasant falls completely under the curse of an enchanting ghost and the other lies and steals his way to fame, only both of them are eventually knocked down from their own hubris and forced to finally awaken to what their wives have said all along.
It's quite exquisite, this movie, with its long takes and its lack of the usual constructs that make up messages of obsession and greed. Once it gets beyond the small, uncomfortable, claustrophobic world of the peasant's home, it becomes audaciously challenging and mysterious, so that the same small home becomes amazingly wonderful and comforting. The very essense of the movie is breathed into the emotions of the audience in very subtle ways, making a very unforgettable cinematic experience.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of THE GREATEST MOVIES EVER Created. Perfection of Movie Making.Published 2 months ago by Steven Artist
A wonderfully beautiful and poignant film. Its themes--delusions of grandeur and hard-won humility, infidelity and steadfast love--are especially moving considering Japan's... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Tim Zerkel
One of the greats. Another must-watch is this director's Sansho the Bailiff, which features the same ethereal actress.Published 6 months ago by Anita Clevenger
A beautiful, haunting story about how the temptation for profit during dangerous times can corrupt, and those who have to pay the consequences for greed. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Catherine M
Ugetsu is difficult to rate but I do rate it up on account the storytelling. The story is engaging and believable. Read morePublished 9 months ago by rbrogan3
Another purchase of something I had seen long ago and couldn't forget. This film was formative in my life and in the lives of a couple of my closest friends. Read morePublished 12 months ago by One reader
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