Ugetsu or Ugetsu Monogatari is a 1953 black-and-white Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi and based on stories in Ueda Akinari’s book of the same name. It is a ghost story and an example of the jidaigeki (period drama) genre. Set inAzuchi–Momoyama period Japan, it stars Masayuki Mori and Machiko Kyō. It is one of Mizoguchi’s most celebrated films, regarded by critics as a masterwork of Japanese cinema and a definitive piece during Japan’s Golden Age of Film. Along with Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon, Ugetsu is credited with having popularized Japanese cinema in the West.
English titles: Tales of Ugetsu, Tales of a Pale and Mysterious Moon After the Rain, Tales of Moonlight and Rain
Ugetsu is set in villages which line the shore of Lake Biwa in Ōmi Province in the late 16th century. It revolves around two peasant couples – Genjurō and Miyagi, Tōbei and Ohama – who are uprooted as Shibata Katsuie’s army sweeps through their farming village, Nakanogō. Genjurō, a potter, takes his wares to nearby Ōmizo. He is accompanied by Tōbei, who dreams of becoming a samurai. A respected sage tells Miyagi to warn her husband about seeking profit in time of upheaval, and to prepare for a probable attack on the village. Genjurō arrives with his profits, but she asks him to stop. Genjurō nevertheless works long hours to finish his pottery. That night Nakanogō is attacked by soldiers, and the four main characters hide out in the woods.
Genjurō decides to take the pots to a different marketplace, and the two couples travel across a lake. Out of the thick fog another boat appears. The sole passenger tells them he was attacked by pirates, warns them back to their homes, then dies. The two men decide to return their wives to the shore. Tōbei’s wife refuses to go; Miyagi begs Genjurō not to leave her, but is left on the shore with their young son clasped to her back. At market, Genjurō’s pottery sells well. After taking his promised share of the profits, Tōbei runs off to buy samurai armor, and sneaks into the ranks of a clan of samurai. Lost from her companions, Ohama has wandered beyond Nagahama in her desperate search for Tōbei. She is raped by a group of soldiers.
Genjurō is visited by a noblewoman and her female servant, who order several pieces of pottery and tell him to take them to the Kutsuki mansion. Genjurō learns that soldiers have attacked the manor and killed all who lived there, except Lady Wakasa and her three servants. He also learns that Lady Wakasa’s father haunts the manor. Genjurō is seduced by Lady Wakasa, and she convinces him to marry her. Meanwhile, Nakanogō is under attack. Miyagi and her son hide from soldiers and are found by an elderly woman who hurries them to safety. In the woods, several soldiers desperately search her for food. She fights with the soldiers and is stabbed. She collapses with her son still clutching her back.
Tōbei steals the severed head of a general, which he presents to the commander of the victorious side. He is rewarded with armor, a mount, and a retinue. Tōbei later rides into the marketplace on his new horse, eager to return home to show his wife. However, he visits a brothel and finds her working there. Tōbei promises to buy back her honor. Later, the two return to Nakanogō, Tōbei sans armor.
Genjurō meets a priest, who tells him to return to his loved ones or certain death awaits him. When Genjurō mentions the noblewoman, the priest reveals that the noblewoman is dead and must be exorcised, and then invites Genjurō to his home where he paints Buddhist prayers on his body. Genjurō returns to the Kutsuki mansion. He admits that he is married, has a child and wishes to return home. Lady Wakasa will not let him go. They admit they are spirits, returned to this world so that Lady Wakasa, who was slain before she knew love, could experience its joys. She tells him to wash away the Buddhist symbols. Genjurō reaches for a sword, throws himself out of the manor, and passes out. The next day, he is awakened by soldiers. They accuse him of stealing the sword, but he denies it, saying it is from the Kutsuki mansion. The soldiers laugh at him, saying the Kutsuki mansion was burned down over a month ago. Genjurō arises and finds the mansion he has lived in is nothing more than a pile of burnt wood. The soldiers confiscate his money; but because Shibata’s army burned down the prison, they leave Genjuro in the rubble.
Miyagi, delighted to see him, will not let him tell of his terrible mistake. Genjurō holds his sleeping son in his arms, and eventually lies down to sleep. The next morning, Genjurō wakes to the village chief knocking on his door. He is surprised to see Genjurō home, and expresses concern. He explains that he has been caring for Genjurō’s son, and that the boy must have come to his old home in the middle of the night. Genjurō calls for Miyagi. The neighbor asks if Genjurō is dreaming, as his wife is dead. Miyagi’s spirit tells Genjurō: “I am always with you”.
Ugetsu monogatari (1953) [MultiSub]