309 Ugetsu

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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ando
Bringing Out El Duende
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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#176 Post by ando » Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:57 pm

I'm at a total loss as to what both of you are talking about. Imported plots? Missteps? First of all, who but the director can say what aspects of his or her film are missteps? Further, the very nature of film is memory- individual and collective; how can a country (France??) have dominion on any particular filmic device or scenario? Ugetsu is all of a piece in my eyes; primarily, the destructive lengths to which man's illusions take him - literally and figuratively. Course, to a great extent, it"s the theme behind much great dramatic lit but this film is certainly the epitome of it in film.

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Roscoe
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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#177 Post by Roscoe » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:23 am

UGETSU is one of those unassailable classics of all time cinema, and I'm afraid I've never gotten into it at all. A viewing in college left me unmoved, another viewing or two over the years, shrug. I picked up the Criterion DVD a while back, thinking I'd give it a whirl sometime, and it sat unwatched on my shelf. So when a brand new 4K digitalrestorationprojectionpalooza hit Film Forum, I decided I'd give it one more shot, after all, I'm more aware of that Mizoguchi guy than I had been, and time and life had passed, and if I could be bowled over by GRAND ILLUSION after so many years of Just Not Getting It At All, why not UGETSU?

Well, the magic kind of happened. I certainly appreciated the movie a great deal more than I ever had, the film's depiction of women and what they suffer at the hands of those idiotic creatures called men came through a lot clearer than it ever had, and a degree of reading about Mizoguchi and seeing some of his other work had me prepared for that. UGETSU is certainly gorgeous to look at, delicious black and white studio and location cinematography all over the place. It's just that, well, I never quite got as into it as I wish I had. I always felt outside what was going on, appreciating all the beautiful camerawork and splendid performances and music and all, but not really, you know, feeling it.

I mean, it's okay and all. The acclaim is, however, a mystery to me.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#178 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:06 am

I don't think "quiet pleasantness" even remotely fits Ugetsu....

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OldBobbyPeru
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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#179 Post by OldBobbyPeru » Wed Mar 14, 2018 4:05 pm

Watching UGETSU for the first time, I was mildly annoyed that it seemed that the theme is "Peasant, accept your lot, ambition will make you lose everything." It's the opposite of the Western Horatio Alger type success story. Of course, I'm aware that generally it's seen that the protagonist's problem was greed, and Tobei's was lust for power, or a delusion of grandeur. Yet, Genjuro is repeatedly shown wanting to buy nice things for the wife, his obsession with getting his goods sold is to improve the lot of his family.

Having said that, I enjoyed the film. It was my first viewing of a Mizoguchi, and I'm looking forward to watching more of his work. The crane shots, and mise-en-scene in general are wonderful. David Hare points out in the other thread that Mizoguchi admired and had met Von Sternberg, and I can certainly see the influence.

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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#180 Post by knives » Wed Mar 14, 2018 4:34 pm

Honestly, I feel that's a reoccurring aspect of Mizoguchi's films owing to his particular brand of Buddhism. Whether or not that is a good thing I suppose is up to the viewer.

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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#181 Post by OldBobbyPeru » Thu Mar 15, 2018 1:52 pm

knives wrote:Honestly, I feel that's a reoccurring aspect of Mizoguchi's films owing to his particular brand of Buddhism. Whether or not that is a good thing I suppose is up to the viewer.
He was also a Marxist at one point, wasn't he?

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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#182 Post by Big Ben » Thu Mar 15, 2018 2:27 pm

OldBobbyPeru wrote:
knives wrote:Honestly, I feel that's a reoccurring aspect of Mizoguchi's films owing to his particular brand of Buddhism. Whether or not that is a good thing I suppose is up to the viewer.
He was also a Marxist at one point, wasn't he?
He was a socialist yes. I confess I'm unsure just how he managed to reconcile socialism with his brand of Buddhism.

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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#183 Post by Lachino » Thu Mar 15, 2018 3:35 pm

There's a lot about the career of marxism/communism/socialism outside of Europe that's hard to understand.

To OldBobbyPeru's point, I had a somewhat similar reaction when watching Ugetsu for the first time. In the early going I was unsure if the Genjuro/Tobei combo was to be taken as comedic in tone - they seem like such bumbling idiots and so on. I understand that's the wrong impression but I still can't quite reconcile the high tragedy and humanistic pathos others see in the film with that pair.

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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#184 Post by OldBobbyPeru » Thu Mar 15, 2018 3:47 pm

I think Tobei definitely was meant as comic relief, but as the film develops, it's made clear that Genjuro is a master craftsman with his pottery, not at all a bumbling idiot like Tobei.

People complain about Tobei, and the actor's portrayal of him as being over the top, but isn't that style something derived from Japanese Noh/Kabuki theater? He's not that different from Mifune's clowny character in Seven Samurai.

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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#185 Post by Lachino » Thu Mar 15, 2018 4:05 pm

I believe it's rather Mifune's acting style in Throne of Blood that are an example of the Noh style in film? I think the Tobei-figure is played in a more broad fashion, reminding me of the pair in Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (which probably orginally predisposed me to look for comedy).

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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#186 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Mar 15, 2018 4:28 pm

I definitely understand the more uneven reactions, but I find Ugetsu's highs (Genjuro outside the ruins of the Kutsuki estate, the famous lake scenes, and Genjuro's achingly sad return home to the illusory Miyagi) to far outweigh its weaker points.
OldBobbyPeru wrote:Watching UGETSU for the first time, I was mildly annoyed that it seemed that the theme is "Peasant, accept your lot, ambition will make you lose everything." It's the opposite of the Western Horatio Alger type success story. Of course, I'm aware that generally it's seen that the protagonist's problem was greed, and Tobei's was lust for power, or a delusion of grandeur. Yet, Genjuro is repeatedly shown wanting to buy nice things for the wife, his obsession with getting his goods sold is to improve the lot of his family.
I think in Genjuro's case, Mizoguchi makes clear from the very beginning that the pottery merchant is too willing to risk his life (and by extension his family's well-being) when he runs off to sell his pottery even as the war draws closer; that he's rewarded for this risk only makes him more reckless in directly putting his family danger by coming down the mountain to check on the kiln, and then leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves against maurauding armies long before he comes under the spell of Lady Wakasa. Losing what little one has when obsessed with improving one's lot in life is a recurring theme in literature and film from all cultures, and Miyagi's support of his pottery work I think illustrates that its not his ambition to better his place in the world in and of itself that is Genjuro's downfall, but that he loses sight of his responsibilities to his family.

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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#187 Post by OldBobbyPeru » Thu Mar 15, 2018 4:44 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:Losing what little one has when obsessed with improving one's lot in life is a recurring theme in literature and film from all cultures, and Miyagi's support of his pottery work I think illustrates that its not his ambition to better his place in the world in and of itself that is Genjuro's downfall, but that he loses sight of his responsibilities to his family.
Good point, especially about this theme appearing in literature and film from all cultures. I was similarly annoyed by Visconti's LA TERRA TREMA for the same reasons. I see what you're saying about the distinction of losing sight of his basic responsibilities.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#188 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Mar 15, 2018 7:14 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:I definitely understand the more uneven reactions, but I find Ugetsu's highs (Genjuro outside the ruins of the Kutsuki estate, the famous lake scenes, and Genjuro's achingly sad return home to the illusory Miyagi) to far outweigh its weaker points.
Exactly. ;-)

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Re: Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)

#189 Post by OldBobbyPeru » Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:16 pm

Same for me. Like I said a few posts back, it was a mild annoyance, I was nit-picking. On the whole, I think it's a masterful film.

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