ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
"War certainly changes people."
"Without you, my success means nothing."
A national fable of a ghost story wherein Japan is haunted by its own principles. Ambition turned overzealous transforms into greed; what used to push the country forward as a collective community now holds it back as citizens withdraw into their own microcosmic fantasies of individual success. Genjuro does it for the wealth and Tobei does it for the glory, but one is hiding from his nation's crimes and the other is re-entrenching them.
They're only trying to enrich their own lives, but as their ambition grows and they lose track of the reasonable boundaries of their pursuits, they likewise lose track of the world around them. This forgotten, betrayed Other is here specifically embodied in the heroes' respective romantic interests, but the parable is applicable on a much wider scale as tale about how Japan's core values needed to be exorcised during this period of civil war, like an aristocratic ghost feeding on poor farmers and samurai, seeking release from its decimated mansion.
Ugetsu is a great film to show anyone skeptical that old / black and white / foreign movies can be "fun" because it has an incredibly modern pace. It's relatively short, but there's tons going on in it from the perspective of plot, character, and theme (plus some fun genre stuff, although it's really kept to a minimum and plays out almost entirely as a straight drama). It's so fast that when it slows down at a crucial point toward the end, it really comes down like a hammer.
My favorite new discovery of Hoop-tober this year.