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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mizoguchi Masters - so far so good, 23 May 2008
By 
HJ (London UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyu-Sama [Masters Of Cinema] [1951] [DVD] (DVD)
Mizoguchi is the favourite director of many a "cineaste" - that his films are being put out on dvd by the avowedly cineaste Masters of Cinema label is a dream come true. So far the series is more than living up to expectations.
The format is brilliant - each release contains one classic and one lesser known related film, rather like a main feature and a supporting feature. This is a great (& affordable) way of quickly releasing a representative cross-section of Mizo films. As well as the 2 discs, each release has wonderful packaging & very substantial booklets with lots of photographs, original poster art, essays & translations of the Japanese literary source materials.
The only (minor) criticism I have is of Tony Rayns' short filmed introductions. While I normally respect Mr Rayns, here he merely recounts second-hand gossip about Mizoguchi & film company politics, virtually dismissing the films themselves as hack-work. I'm all for demystification but this is ridiculous!
What about the films? They are all black & white, postwar (40s & 50s). SANSHO & UGETSU are feudal period films, stunningly shot & overwhelming emotional roller-coaster rides. Both are extremely haunting - literally so in the case of UGETSU with its strange supernatural & ghostly elements. Both films are both regularly listed on "greatest films of all time" lists & probably need no introduction. The other main feature CHIKAMATSU MONOGATARI is a bit erratic in tone but still excellent. It's another period film, telling of doomed adulterous lovers on the run who transgress every social code of the time.
I hadn't seen the three "supporting" films before but they turn out to be interesting if uneven. Mizoguchi's most popular films (in the West) are "classical" Japanese period films while his less popular films have modern (C20th) settings. GION BAYASHI and UWASA NO ONNA are both sharp melodramas set in the modern Geisha world of Kyoto and explore the tribulations & sacrifices of the women and the thin line between Geisha and prostitute. UWASA is a particularly striking film with great performances from the actresses & stands comparison with the recently released Naruse films. Arguably these 2 films work better on dvd / small screen whereas SANSHO & UGETSU lose some of their impact away from the cinema. The third supporting film OYU-SAMA is a real melodrama with a storyline that may be of limited appeal. It has some very good scenes & some awkward/dated ones. It is modern but has some evocative "traditional" Japanese scenes and its strange story of a tangled three way obsessional repressed relationship will give Freudians a field day.
Three releases, six films - highly recommended.
Let's start praying that Masters of Cinema get to release epics like Late Chrysanthemums & 49 Ronin and maybe even some of Mizoguchi's incredible 1930s films...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Japanese Garden Approach to film., 7 Jun. 2010
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyu-Sama [Masters Of Cinema] [1951] [DVD] (DVD)
It seems more than a little pretentious for some country bumpkin from the backwoods of Wiltshire to try and review two films by the revered Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi, where so many respected film historians have already trod. David Thomson the acclaimed film writer thought "Ugetsu Monogatari" to be one of the finest films ever made. Barry Norman, who needs no introduction, didn't place it in his top 100 films of all time. The film made in black and white in 1953 was a silver lion winner at the Venice film festival that year. Mizoguchi's films which were long unavailable in the west are now more accessible, and this double DVD is a very good introduction. Be warned that Mizoguchi's work is much more Japanese in character than Akira Kurosawa's more western influenced films, and therefore require more patience. But this patience can be rewarded.

"Ugetsu" is set in 16th century Japan in villages on Lake Biwa in Omi province. We follow the lives of two couples who struggle during a difficult time of civil war, where as always the civilian populace suffers the most. One man dreams of becoming a samurai whilst the other dreams of making his fortune. Both are seduced by their dreams and the worship of false idols. They fail to see the riches that are close to them. Like all the great films it has something to say! The choices we make in life and human transience. Mizoguchi directs proceedings like a master puppeteer carefully orchestrating scenes, the strings held together by his dream like roving camera, a camera that constantly involves the viewer in intimate scenes. The final scenes are particularly memorable.

"Oyu Sama" or "Miss Oyu", another film made in black and white, also uses these same techniques in a film of manners and forbidden love. In a perverse situation, a man falls in love with the widowed sister of his future wife. The widow can only marry with the permission of her dead husbands family, and so in a desperate act to keep the couple closer together the sister selflessly marries the man in a purely platonic relationship. The story unfolds in a carefully mannered and formalized fashion, with all parties trying to adhere to social conventions whilst suppressing their inner feelings. Such a subject could only be broached in post war Japan during the more relaxed censorship under American occupation. The film would never have been made before the war. Based on a novel by the famous Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki, it is unusually frank about the taboo subject of sex for its time. The film is as beautifully structured as an immaculately kept Kyoto garden, where the film is incidentally set. This gives it a uniquely Japanese character and lends it great charm. There are many scenes shot in garden settings. The film has an introduction from the respected film critic Tony Rayns who talks about Mizoguchi's dissatisfaction with the film over matters of miscasting and issues with the Daiei studio. He also covers other interesting facts which make it well worth watching.

If you have not watched a Mizoguchi film then this is a good place to start. Many people, even today, tend to associate Japanese cinema with Akira Kurosawa and look no further, but that would be to miss out on many other fine offerings. Anyone who appreciates sublime camera work will love these films which truly show the hallmark of a master
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece. See it, 4 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyu-Sama [Masters Of Cinema] [1951] [DVD] (DVD)
I saw Ugetsu at a tiny local cinema club during my student days. It was the one movie which still shines in my memory most. threaded with all the famed hallmarks of Mizoguchi touch, this is the one to see and the one to fill you deep with Mizoguchi vision. Supernatural love and beauty has never been the same again since this movie. Chilling, touching, breathtaking, the sacrificed spirit of female love will linger long after you leave the movie theatre...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely on the eye and the ear, 18 Feb. 2012
By 
schumann_bg - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyu-Sama [Masters Of Cinema] [1951] [DVD] (DVD)
Ugetsu Monogatari is a brilliant ghost story or rather two ghost stories blended together. It works very well - cinema is so good at apparitions! And these are particularly lovely and more than touching in the end, they evoke the sadness and longing in life with exquisite poignancy. I loved Oyu-Sama as well: a sort of Japanese take on Jules et Jim, but much more restrained and decorous, and again, very moving. And there is grace in the ending where Truffaut's film sounds a note of pointless loss. The sounds of the language and the beautiful way of moving and talking characteristic of the actresses are very lovely, and the performances of Kinuyo Tanaka are amazing, and very different in these two films. Tony Rayns says she was miscast in Oyu-Sama but if this is the case it is certainly an interesting piece of miscasting and gives a superb tension to the role, a slight theatricality, even implausibility, but something quite wonderful. And the more obvious ghost in Ugetsu is evoked in myriad tones - partly thanks to the music - and has a ravishing beauty.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant film, 15 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyu-Sama [Masters Of Cinema] [1951] [DVD] (DVD)
The Japanese title translates as "Tales of Rain and Moon." Initially as simple as a folktale, it develops into a rich and complex story with an epic sweep. There is some sharp observation of human life (and human character). The camera-work is stunning, with every scene "just right". There is beautiful control of pace and tone throughout. The conclusion was criticised at the time by some European critics. However, I found it thoughtful, and in keeping with the fable-like quality of the whole.

This masterpiece comes with an earlier film by Kenji Mizoguchi--"Oyu Sama" --"Miss Oyu". This is very different from "Ugetsu"--iti is a domestic drama set in the thirties, about a man who marries a girl so he can be nearer to her (widowed) sister. Oshizu, whom he marries, is complicit in this--there is a hint (no more) of lesbian-incest feeling. As with "Ugetsu", it is beautifully observed,with excellent control of pace and tone. The story was taken from the Tanizaki novel "Ashikari"--"The Reed Cutter".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Love Kyo Machiko., 6 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyu-Sama [Masters Of Cinema] [1951] [DVD] (DVD)
Terrific! The digitized version was great with no light blips and flashes. Just as i remembered it years ago on the big screen.
Kyo Machiko was superb. The bonus DVD, Oyu Sama, was also good.
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