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).
“Taking a journey through a watery, misty netherworld, the film is comfortable with the uncanny, but there are real-world lessons here about the toxicity of the male ego.” Donald Clarke
“In Mizoguchi’s use of the moving camera – detached yet empathetic – to express the conflict between male and female drives, his ineffably beautiful anti-war ghost fable is unparalleled.” Graham Fuller
“Mizoguchi’s contemplative style at its most expressively Bruegelesque.” Ramsey Campbell
“Mizoguchi’s greatest film bridges the realms of reality and fantasy so effortlessly, as if both realms exist in a single construct.” Tom Gunning