Ugetsu ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Sort of transformative.

This takes a while to warm up. It starts out about a couple of villager families in Japan. Both are farmers out of necessity, but both have dreams of bigger things. One dreams of being a great samurai. The other makes clay pots as a side job, and dreams of making it rich selling his wares. Both are blinded by their desires for fame and fortune. Both abandon their families, wives and children, to pursue their passions.

The wannabe samurai dumb lucks his way into a position of power. He stumbles upon a great general that has been wounded in battle. The generals assistant beheads the general as a dying wish. The farmer then attacks the assistant from behind, kills him, and steal the head of the general. He claims that he took it in battle; he is rewarded with treasures and unearned respect.

While all this was happening, his wife has been raped by savages and she is now resigned to being a prostitute. When the newly appointed samurai rides into town, along with his entourage, they stop at the brothel where unbeknownst to him, his wife is now working. It is only now that he realized the folly of his thinking. He lost what he cared about most by trying to acquire a position of higher status.

The pottery maker is taking advantage of the war going on and makes a good deal of money selling his pots. He then becomes greedy and risks all of their lives when the army comes to his village. He is so blinded by money that he insists on keeping his kiln burning, even though if he is caught by the army he will be captured and forced into slavery.

They narrowly escape the army, and he travels across the river to sell his pots for an even higher price. It is here that his meets a glowingly attractive woman who buys a good deal of his wares. When he delivers them to her luxurious residence, she seduces him and purposes marriage to him. In his greed and lust he accepts. It is only later that he finds out that she is a spirit from the after life, and that she has been manipulating him like a siren.

He leaves her palace, now clearly seen as a ruin, and returns home. He finds his son in a healthy way, but his wife has been killed by bandits.

The stories are cautionary tales much like children's stories, but with more mature themes. The film making is gorgeous and truly haunting. The scenes with the spirit woman cast a vision of tranquility and menace. This would make an amazing entry point to Japanese cinema.

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