Halloween feature 50 days, 50 slays! Day 1 – UGETSU CRITERION COLLECTION

To almost all film fans, this film need no introduction. A classic film that is wrongly described as an ‘action thriller’. It is far more than that but also a chilling collection of tales about the evils of avarice, desire, greed and temptation. Kenji Mizoguchi UGETSU (or UGETSU MONOGATARI to give it the full title) is a study in the great mans later period works, Japanese folk tales and the power of post war feeling toward the fate of the country.

1 – UGETSU (Criterion collection)


The time is 16th century Japan. An on going power struggle has broken the people and their lives are caught between brief windows of opportunity. So when impoverished potter Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) sees a chance to sell his wares in a big town for much profit, he jumps at the chance. Taking his neighbour Tobei (Sakae Ozawa) and their families, they reach the town but things do not play out as they would hope. The beautiful Lady Wasaka (Machiko Kyo) mesmerises Genjuro.  Tobei attempts to pursue his ambition to become a samurai and his wife is cast into a world of desire and money as she is left for dead after a brutal gang rape.


It sounds horrific enough but actually UGETSU is a beautifully told morality play that fuses four separate stories into a single space. The 4K restoration deserve praise for keeping the standard versions delightful cinematography (the stock was obviously kept well) and then amplifies it to new heights. You wont get big shocks, cries of fright or deep felt, gore drenched splatter. You will instead get a film that will sit with you for ever.


There is so much to enjoy after the film. We expect that from Criterion but here they excel. The documentary on Mizuguchi is explorative but not sensational. Rayns commentary is as rich as Richie but with a lot less fluff and air. Masahiro Shinoda appreciation is just that. A heart felt appreciation of a master. Then to finish Halloween off, you could read the excellent stories three short stories that inspired the film. All in all a well worthwhile film and extras to enjoy again and again.

Special Edition Features

New 4K digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
Audio commentary by critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns
Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Film Director, a 1975 documentary by Kaneto Shindo
Two Worlds Intertwined, a 2005 appreciation of Ugetsu by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda
Process and Production, a 2005 interview with Tokuzo Tanaka, first assistant director on Ugetsu
Interview from 1992 with cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa
Plus: A book featuring an essay by film critic Phillip Lopate and three short stories that inspired the film


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