Sunday, January 15, 2006

Discovering Ugetsu Monogatari

This weekend I discovered one of the masterpieces of the Japanese cinema: Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari. I had never seen this film, although I have known of its existence since the summer of 1977 when I first discovered foreign films. Ugetsu, with its contemplative theme of careless love, its fluid structure, and its subtle supernatural story is not the easiest of films, especially when compared to the more dynamic, more "American" cinema of Akira Kurosawa -- the director of The Seven Samurai, Rashomon, and Yojimbo. I'm glad that it took me all these years to get to the movie, since I don't think I would have liked it when I was a teen discovering Kurosawa's masterpieces. I probably would have found Mizoguchi's work vague, and perhaps boring. This is one of those movies that always ends up on the top ten lists of the greatest films ever made from critics from all over the world. I think I agree with these critics. The Criterion Collection has finally issued the film in a wonderful DVD version which, again, makes me glad that I waited to see it. Needless to say, this pressing from an original fine-grain 35mm print looks superb. You will enjoy this DVD release, with its amazing visual, its fine commentary and the well-made documentary about director Mizoguchi. So, if you are ready to step further beyond the films of Akira Kurosawa, you should give Ugetsu a try. I am sure that you will find it mesmerizing and totally unforgettable.

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