In war-torn 16th-century Japan, two men leave their wives to seek wealth and glory in Kenji Mizoguchi’s tragic supernatural classic.
“The director’s unique establishment of atmosphere by means of long shot, long takes, sublimely graceful and unobtrusive camera movement, is everywhere evident. A ravishingly composed, evocatively beautiful film.”
Rod McShane, Time Out Film Guide, 2011
With a title sometimes flowerily translated as ‘Tales of the Pale and Silvery Moon after the Rain’, Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1953 film Ugetsu Monogatari is a lyrical blend of period drama and ghostly fable. Uprooted by civil war, two peasant couples are split apart when the men – against the counsel of their wives – leave their families in search of greater fortune.
Ugetsu Monogatari is filmed in Mizoguchi’s distanced but all-encompassing camera style, full of flowing movement and respect for the action’s context, as the story of the men’s striving assumes the quality of an allegory. The film is especially celebrated for its subtly achieved supernatural elements: the spectral appearance of a boat through the mist, and the scenes in which the potter (Masayuki Mori) is lured to the castle of the mysterious Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo).
Another rural period film with a superstitious dimension, Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba (1964) involves the curse of a dead samurai’s mask.