Ugetsu Monogatari

One early spring during the Warring States period in 16th-century Japan, on the shores of Lake Biwa in the Omi Province, the family man Genjurô – a farmer and craftsman – travels to Nagahama to sell his wares and makes a small fortune. His neighbor Tobei dreams of becoming a samurai but does not have the funds to buy the necessary suit of armor. The avaricious Genjurô and Tobei join forces to make clay pots, hoping to sell them and become rich. What can one note about this Kenji Mizoguchi masterpiece that has not already been written? Having secured itself a prominent place in the history of cinema long ago, considered as it is – and most deservedly so – one of the best films of all time, and beloved by Martin Scorsese and Andrei Tarkovsky, Mizoguchi’s timeless moral parable is not simply a classic Japanese story featuring ghosts; it is a black-and-white gem of monumental cinema that continues to enchant with its expressionistic beauty and poetic sorrow.
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Direction: Kenji Mizoguchi
Script: Matsutaro Kawaguchi, Yoshikata Yoda
Cinematography: Kazuo Miyagawa
Editing: Mitsuzō Miyata
Sound: Iwao Otani, Akira Suzuki
Music: Fumio Hayasaka
Actors: Machiko Kyō, Masayuki Mori, Kinuyo Tanaka, Sakae Ozawa, Mitsuko Mito, Kikue Mori, Ryosuke Kagawa, Ichiro Amano, Sugisaku Aoyama, Ichisaburo Sawamura
Production: Daiei Film
Producers: Masaichi Nagata
Costumes: Shima Yoshimi, Tadaoto Kainosho
Sets: Uichiro Yamamoto
Make Up: Zenya Fukuyama
Format: DCP
Color: B/W
Production Country: Japan
Production Year: 1953
Duration: 97'
Contact: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive
Awards/Distinctions: Silver Lion, Pasinetti Award – Venice FF 1953

Kenji Mizoguchi

Kenji Mizoguchi (1898–1956) was a foundational figure of the Japanese cinema and one of its uncontestably supreme artists. Mizoguchi remains best known today for his late masterworks of the 1950s and especially The Life of Oharu, Ugetsu and Sansho the Bailiff, haunting visions of feudal Japan tragically shaped by the suffering heroines and inexorable tracking shots often declared the pillars of Mizoguchi’s cinema. Exalted by Godard, Rivette, Rohmer, the slow unspooling of time and space in Mizoguchi’s late films was celebrated as a sublime realization of the stylized realism preached by the spiritual father of the nouvelle vague, André Bazin. With their obsessively detailed attention to period costume, architecture and the traditional Japanese arts and literature from which they drew deep inspiration, Mizoguchi’s late films also branded him, internationally, as the quintessentially Japanese filmmaker.


1933 White Threads of the Waterfall
1935 Oyuki the Virgin
1936 Sisters of the Gion
1937 Straits of Love and Hate
1946 Utamaro and His Five Women
1947 The Love of Sumako, the Actress
1948 Women of the Night
1951 Miss Oyu
1952 The Life of Oharu
1953 Ugetsu
1954 Sansho the Bailiff
1955 Tales of the Taira Clan
1956 Street of Shame