Ugetsu is an unusual film, but thanks to the Battelle Film Club, we get the chance to view it.
Giving it a category is tough. Look in depth and it is a philosophical statement. A little less digging and it is a terrific ghost story.
Done in 1953 by lesser-known in the West but still legendary Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi, it follows the lives of two men and their wives.
One wants to become a rich merchant, the other a samurai. Their wives just want ordinary lives.
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The chance sale of his crockery makes one of them more money than he has ever seen. His neighbor, who needs money for armor to become a samurai, pitches in and the two men cook up another batch of the wares.
At this point in time, a civil war is in progress and soldiers are scouring the land for food and to enslave people to work for them. The wives of the two men urge them to flee but greed keeps them on course.
That course leads to tragedy for all.
Steeped in Buddhist and ancient Japanese philosophy -- and through the use of a cleverly placed ghost story in the middle -- Mizoguchi patiently dissects the dangers inherent in the self-absorbed pursuit of physical pleasure and success.
The drawback is old and scratchy film and, I suspect a translation that is a bit stiff. But Ugetsu is a great story, well-told and a terrific trip into the past.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Not rated, probably PG or PG-13. It plays one time only -- 8 p.m., Friday, March 11 -- at the Battelle Auditorium in Richland.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.