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Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama(1953)
In the beginning of the springtime in the period of the Japanese Civil Wars of the Sixteenth Century in Lake Biwa in the Province of Omi, the family man farmer and craftsman Genjurô travels to Nagahama to sell his wares and makes a small fortune. His neighbor Tobei that is a fool man dreams on becoming a samurai, but he can not afford to buy the necessary outfit. The greedy Genjurô and Tobei work together manufacturing clay potteries, expecting to sell the pieces and enrich; however, their wives Miyage and Ohama are worried about the army of the cruel Shibata that is coming to their village and they warn their ambitious husbands.
For more about Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama and the Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama Blu-ray release, see Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 4, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Starring: Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyô, Kinuyo Tanaka
» See full cast & crew
Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 4, 2012
Winner of Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival, Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi's "Ugetsu Monogatari" (1953) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include Japanese and Spanish trailers for the film; video introduction by film critic Tony Rayns; Kenji Mizoguchi's first film for the Daiei company, "Oyu-sama" (1951); and a video introduction for it. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring archival imagery and award-winning translations of the 18th century Ueda Akinari stories adapted in "Ugetsu Monogatari". In Japanese, with optional English subtitles for the two films. Region-B "locked".
16th century Japan, the Civil War. While gangs of warriors clash and raid villages across the country, potter Genjuro (Masayuki Mori, When A Woman Ascends The Stairs, The Bad Sleep Well) works hard, hoping to get rich. His neighbor, Tobei (Eitaro Ozawa, Scandal, The Crucified Lovers), dreams of becoming a respected samurai, but does not have enough to buy a proper uniform.
One night, their village is also raided by a group of angry warriors. Genjuro, Tobei, and their wives manage to hide in the forest and quietly observe from afar the destruction of their homes. After the warriors leave, they gather the pots that could be sold and head to a nearby bazaar.
While crossing a lake, they spot a boat with a seriously wounded man in it. He tells them that he was attacked by pirates and urges them to go back. Then, he dies. Seriously concerned, Genjuro and Tobei decide to return their wives to the shore and then risk passing the lake. But only Genjuro's wife, Miyagi (Kinuyo Tanaka, Ballad of Narayama), agrees to go back and look after their son. Tobei's wife, Ohama (Mitsuko Mito, Flame of my Love), refuses to leave the boat.
The travelers reach the bazaar safe and sound. The place is busy and Genjuro's pots sell well. At the end of the day, he is visited by an elegant woman, Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo, Floating Weeds, Street of Shame), and her servant, who offer to buy his last pots. To get paid, Genjuro must bring the pots to Lady Wakasa's mansion.
As previously agreed, a small portion of the profit goes to Tobei, who sees a group of warriors passing through and immediately decides to buy a proper samurai uniform. With a bit of luck, he manages to buy one exactly like those worn by the soldiers and joins them. Alone and concerned about Tobei, Ohama starts looking for him. She is raped by a group of thugs not too far away from the bazaar.
Meanwhile, Genjuro arrives in Lady Wakasa's mansion to collect his money. Much to his surprise, Lady Wakasa treats him like a nobleman and by the end of the night makes it clear that she has fallen in love with him.
Based on two ghost stories by Ueda Akinari, Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari (which translates into English as Tales of the Rain and Moon) is a deeply atmospheric film that is practically impossible to describe with simple words. It is part Japanese period noir piece, part surrealist film with a strong anti-war message – and a lot more.
The two stories the film tells are closely intertwined, and with reality and fantasy overlapping in both, the atmosphere is indeed quite unusual. The film is unquestionably critical towards the feudal order which has created the monsters Genjuro, Tobei, and their wives must dodge, but also fascinated by it. As they travel through the countryside, the camera often seeks and captures beauty in the midst of tragic events.
The film is a prime example of Mizoguchi's vision of cinema - it is comprised of long and notably elegant shots. In Mizoguchi's films, the camera is never a static observer; it constantly moves, seeking the action rather than anticipating it. (Precisely the opposite was Ozu's approach to filming, as in his films the camera routinely remains a passive observer).
Note: In 1953, Ugetsu monogatari earned Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (Tadaoto Kainosho) and won Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.
Oyu-sama a.k.a Miss Oyu was the first film director Mizoguchi made for the Daiei company in 1951. Unlike Ugetsu Monogatari, this is a film that remains firmly grounded in reality.
Oyu-sama tells the story of a young man, Shinnosuke (Yûji Hori, Older Brother, Younger Sister), who is looking for a wife to start a family. He is urged to meet the young, beautiful and available Shizu (Nobuko Otowa, Kuroneko, The Naked Island), who comes from a well respected and wealthy family. Shinnosuke agrees but falls in love with her widowed older sister, Oyu (Kinuyo Tanaka, The Life of Oharu, Sansho the Bailiff), who isn't allowed to remarry because she is expected to raise and educate her son to take over her late husband's family.
Determined to follow his heart, Shinnosuke decides to marry Shizu so that he could be closer to Oyu. Shizu agrees to cooperate because she wants her sister to be happy, but knows that Oyu would not be able to openly respond to Shinnosuke's feelings. In the midst of all the drama, Shinnosuke comes to realize that he cannot have the woman he loves and, because of her sacrifice, cannot have the woman he has married.
Brilliantly filmed, with excellent characters, Oyu-sama offers a fascinating look into a society in which women's rights and personal freedoms are suppressed.
Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Eureka Entertainment.
The screencaptures included with our review appear in the following order:
1. Ugetsu Monogatari: 1-19.
2. Oyu-sama: 21-30.
Aside from some tiny scratches that occasionally pop up here and there, the presentation is very strong. Detail is far better, especially during the nighttime scenes, when one compares this release to Criterion's R1 DVD release of Ugetsu Monogatari. Clarity is also dramatically improved, with the panoramic daylight scenes in particular conveying substantially improved depth and fluidity (see screencapture #12). Most nighttime sequences also boast better shadow definition and stronger contrast balance (see screencapture #11). Furthermore, there are no traces of post-production tinkering (contrast boosting, sharpening, severe filtering). Unsurprisingly, the film has consistent, very pleasing organic look. This being said, there are some small warps as well as sporadic edge instability (mostly during selected frame transitions), but it is quite clear that these are inherited source limitations. All in all, this is yet another competent release that should please fans of classic Japanese cinema.
Oyu-sama is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer. Detail and clarity are a notch below those of Ugetsu Monogatari. When light is restricted, shadow definition also isn't as good. This is not to say, however, that the quality is underwhelming; on the contrary, considering the various source limitations the film actually looks surprisingly good in high-definition.
(Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, for Ugetsu Monogatari, and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, for Oyu-sama. For the record, Eureka Entertainment have provided optional English subtitles for the two films.
Both lossless tracks have limited dynamic amplitude. However, crispness and clarity are good. Overall, the sound is also well rounded and free of thick hiss (some light hiss is present on Oyu-sama). During a couple of frame transitions there is light pitch instability on Oyu-sama, but the effect is extremely short. All in all, considering the condition of the original elements, the two lossless tracks serve the films well. The English translation is very good.
Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari is rightfully considered one of the greatest films ever made. It is a deeply atmospheric and masterfully lensed film that blends flawlessly the real and the surreal and delivers an important message. Ugetsu Monogatari is now available on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. Also included as a bonus is the Japanese director's thought-provoking Oyu-sama about a young man who cannot marry the woman he loves. Fantastic release. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Ugetsu Monogatari: Other Editions
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Ugetsu Monogatari / Oyû-sama Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Ugetsu Monogatari Detailed - February 24, 2012
British distributors Eureka Entertainment have officially announced and detailed their upcoming Dual Format Edition of director Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari (1953). Also included on this release as a bonus is the Japanese director's little seen early film ...
• Hitchcock, Wilder, McCarey, Kenton, Mizoguchi, and Miike Films Co... - January 24, 2012
Eureka Entertainment have revealed their upcoming titles for the months of April, May, and June 2012. There will be seven new releases added to the Masters of Cinema series: Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Lifeboat, Island of Lost Souls, Ruggles of Red Gap, ...
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