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Friday, January 16, 2015

Ugetsu (1953) d. Kenji Mizoguchi

Movie Review
Ugetsu (1953)
d. Kenji Mizoguchi
Criterion Collection #309

  Criterion Collection gives Ugetsu the hard sell, repeatedly calling it one of the ten best movies of all time.  It's an opinion that was first ventured by the critics of the French New Wave, with Godard a particularly important advocate.  Along with Kurosawa's Rashomon, Ugetsu was one of the first Japanese films to establish an audience for Japanese cinema outside of Japan.  Kurosawa considered Mizoguchi a mentor and key influence, and he therefore occupies the position of patriarch of the Japanese cinematic pantheon.  Because of the destruction of large swathes of pre-War Japanese film, his early work is not well known.  If you are just looking at the dates for his most well known movies, he looks like a contemporary of Kurosawa, but no.

 Ugestu is at heart a ghost story.  The artistic theme of Japanese men falling in love with ghosts or spirits appears to be one of the primary narratives of Japanese art.  Since Ugetsu is generally regarded to be one of THE best films of all times, it also follows that is the best Japanese ghost story of all time.  Strangely, some of the source material is derived from a story by Guy de Maupassant.  

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