Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ugetsu

aka Ugetsu Monogatari
Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953, Japan, bw (9.1*)
This is one of the greatest Japanese cinema classics. Moody, atmospheric, bewitching, you'll be mesmerized by the beautiful visuals and the camera of director Kenji Mizoguchi which seems to always be in motion. The story is about some village peasants in war-torn 16th century Japan. A farmer who also is a potter (Machiko Kyo) for extra income must flee an army with his wares to sell them in a nearby city, accompanied by another couple from the village. This begins an excursion into ambition, desire, and delusion with unforeseen consequences.

The story's plot, which has some unexpected twists, is hard to describe without spoilers, so suffice to say that this is perhaps the best Japanese film after Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. Many consider Mizoguchi's Sansho the Bailiff his masterpiece, but I much prefer this one. It reminds me of the German expressionists, like Murnau and Lang, with perhaps less surrealism and a more modern camera technique, which appears to be often on a moving crane. Fans of classic cinema should love this one, which is a masterwork of modern fables. Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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