Movie Review – Ugetsu

Posted: June 16, 2013 in Movie Reviews
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Ugetsu is a good old movie made from good old fairytale, Tales of Moonlight and Rain. Set in Omi Province in 16th century in a war laden Japan there is a couple of family who reek of poverty but not of hopelessness. The setting helps this movie to great extent. Generally what we see during war is two enemies fighting with each other. After that at most we’d see what’s happening to the families of the fighters and what their real motives for fight are. But what we see here is a certain family who doesn’t even care why the war is going on but tries to cash in on the opportunity to make some quick money. The first lesson in the fairytale. Greed!

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Greed takes Genjuro to such extent that he calls war good. No one in right mind would say that. But is it what everybody thinks as such. Are we all not greedy fellows who make use of the opportunity? May be if we had been at his spot we’d not have said war is good but we still would have gone on to sell those clay pots to make a living. And that’s the initial stage of greed. To make use of the opportunity instead of actually understanding why this opportunity arrived at first place.

Genjuro is not a guy who’s going to learn his lesson till the end. He’s the one whom we are going to see committing various mistake and in that way teaching us all a lesson or two. Masayuki Mori is a brilliant actor who does the role of Genjuro with élan. If by any chance he looks familiar yes he’s the actor who played samurai in Akira Kurosawa’s classic cult film Rashomon, my favorite of his. Even though he commits mistake every now and then, falters after it he never loses his confidence but moves on with his life. The only high point in him which makes him survive till the end. But it’s no reason to make us like him. He’s hated by us for all his deeds no matter what.

The next lesson we get to know is about the importance of family. It’s a really touching scene when Genjuro leaves his wife Miyagi and child in their village much to their dismay. Miyagi played by Kinuyo Tanaka, one of the regulars of Kenji Mizoguchi gets a rare chance to show her acting powers in this scene. Taking about Kinuyo Tanka, her best is definitely Sansho the Bailiff but the role she plays here is completely opposite to what she regularly does. Even though she has a good amount of screen space her role is not a dramatic one so she has to be subtle in every possible way which she does with ease. So just like a champagne waiting to come out of the bottle she explodes in this scene where she runs with her child on the banks of river with camera panning her all the while. Camera stops, waits for her to pick up the child and take on her back and then moves along with her. There is a slight shake when the camera stops while following her. May be it wanted to pay her a tribute so stopped when she did.

There is a straight opposite scene to this in Persona where Bibi Anderson walks in a beach and camera follows her. When she gets stuck by a stone the camera doesn’t stop her to get ready instead she runs fast to come back to frame. A cute scene that was.

The next lesson, never look at any other lady when you have a wife. This time Genjuro doesn’t really go for other lady but gets into a lady’s trap who is nothing but a fragment of his imagination. His way of enjoying life. He actually says this in a open garden with lake background where he sexually plays with Lady Wasaka. The whole set up looks just like a dream. A product of his fantasy. But it doesn’t take much time for him to realize that he has committed a mistake.  Lady wasaka looked bit similar to his wife Miyagi or may be its just me. Machiko Kyo who plays Lady wasaka, probably the best of these three actors and has a powerful role in the film has carried this whole part of the film on her shoulders. Again her best is Rashomon. I’m just obsessed with it.

All the while there is another pair Tobei and Ohama. I found Tobei funny initially; he tickled my funny bone whenever he said he wanted to become a samurai. But I found the seriousness of it when he went with the head of a powerful samurai to become one among them. The next lesson – obsession. When he meets his wife in a brothel that’s when he realizes his mistake and goes back to his normal life. Her wife becomes a geisha out of contempt after being raped by in a Buddhist temple (a very brave scene during those times). If she had been left like that she’d have saved the honor of her husband by committing suicide. But the ones who raped her give her a couple of silver coins which insults her even further. That’s when she loses her self-respect and become a geisha.

Think of this story being told by a parent who is reading this book for the first time to his/her child. A child would understand only to that much what it should understand from the words and his/her parents explanation. But the real meaning would be understood by the parents who actually read this book and get to know what it is. That’s how the film is. Its how each one realizes. A fairy tale for an adult.

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