Ugetsu

Today's movie is Ugetsu, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi in 1953. I didn't know anything about this movie when I started watching it, but I was really surprised by the plot - it's actually a ghost story! Not a Western ghost story by any means, or a horror movie - it's totally different from anything that I've seen before. I really liked it, though. I really enjoyed all the stories with the different characters, and I loved that it had such an interesting overall plot as well.

I really enjoyed that on top of everything, it had a beautiful and elegant style. It was full of really big characters, some of whom were funny or rough around the edges, but the film felt really light and misty, I guess. It really just made the whole film an awesome experience. I love that it felt so mysterious, and not full of cheap shocks or thrills like I am used to seeing.
I feel lazy and bad just using a summary from IMDB again, but I kept putting off writing this blog and sort of have been struggling to put the plot back together again. Is it too annoying when I do this? I try to keep the blog just about my personal feelings and reactions about the film, but if it's nicer when I write the summary, I'll do it for you kids. :)

In any case, the film: "In the civil wars of 16th century Japan, two ambitious peasants want to make their fortunes. The potter Genjuro intends to sell his wares for vast profits in the local city, while his brother-in-law Tobei wishes to become a samurai. Their village is sacked by the marauding armies, but Genjuro's kiln miraculously survives, and they and their wives head for the city. However, Genjuro soon sends his wife Miyagi back home, promising to return to her soon, and Tobei, in his keenness to follow the samurai, abandons his wife Ohama. Meanwhile, a wealthy noblewoman, the Lady Wakasa, shows an interest in Genjuro's pots, and invites him to her mansion." I like this summary because it doesn't ruin any of the interesting things that come up in the movie - I hate giving away key moments or surprises in the film.

From this description, it sounds like it's a pretty average movie, you know? It's so not at all, though. I loved Genjuro and Tobei - they seemed very, as Ebert says, down to earth. I never felt like I couldn't relate to them, despite the fact that they come from a totally different place and time. They seemed to deal with things in a way that just made sense to me, and was actually seemed like it was sort of universal. Ebert describes this movie as a fable, which is a really insightful and accurate thing to say. I think that part of this is because the characters react in a realistic way, even though the subject matter becomes really unrealistic and fantastical. It's easy to still stay connected to the film even when things get more strange, because we still are grounded with our main characters. Plus, the characters don't seem to get too confused or disturbed by the fantastical elements (they just accept that they exist), which helps us do the same thing and focus on other elements in the story other than just, "Wait, there's ghosts!?"

I couldn't believe that the movie was a ghost story - I started to suspect, but I was just shocked at how delicately it was handled. I'm so used to ghosts only being in horror movies. These stories come with jump scares and loud noises and all sorts of creepiness. Here, things are eerie, but beautiful. It's not scary - another reason why Ebert calls this movie a fable (since, if I'm not totally off here, they often deal with strange things but  never get overly caught up in them, since often the strange things are an allegory or something). The images are just stunning in this movie. I loved the parts where Genjuro has the Buddhist prayers on his body - it's so breathtaking looking. It was just a really cool looking image, to me. I really liked the scene on lake as well - the mist, the fog, the shape of the boats and the shadows - it's so pretty.

The movie is so much more than just "a ghost story" - it's full of incredible artistry and craftsmanship. I really liked that it didn't get caught up in the supernatural elements. There were ghosts, but they weren't scary or the whole focus of the story. They simply existed, and were just another part of the story. I loved the look and feel of the whole film, as well. It was just gorgeous. I hope that you check this movie out - it's streaming on Hulu and Netflix, and it's not too long, either. Let me know if you see it!

Have any thoughts on Ugetsu? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Links:
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Ugetsu
Buy it on Amazon

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