By the time he made Ugetsu, Kenji Mizoguchi was already an elder statesman of Japanese cinema, fiercely revered by Akira Kurosawa and other directors of a younger generation. And with this exquisite ghost story, a fatalistic wartime tragedy derived from stories by Akinari Ueda and Guy de Maupassant, he created a touchstone of his art, his long takes and sweeping camera guiding the viewer through a delirious narrative about two villagers whose pursuit of fame and fortune leads them far astray from their loyal wives. Moving between the terrestrial and the otherworldly, Ugetsu reveals essential truths about the ravages of war, the plight of women, and the pride of men.
Pauline Kael wrote, “This subtle, violent yet magical film is one of the most amazing of the Japanese movies that played American art houses after the international success of Rashomon in 1951.” Japanese film scholar Donald Richie called Ugetsu “one of the most perfect movies in the history of Japanese cinema.” Many later directors, including Martin Scorsese and Andrei Tarkovsky, cited it as a personal favorite.
“With rare humanity, Mizoguchi reveals the toll these misadventures take on the souls of both men and their wives, many moments an uncanny synthesis of the realistic and the otherworldly.” ~ Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
“Ugetsu, Kenji Mizoguchi’s most widely heralded film, is a mysterious, incantatory, and gorgeous parable.” ~ Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine
“A ravishingly composed, evocatively beautiful film.” ~ Rod McShane, Time Out