Kenji Mizoguchi was three decades into his career when he had his international breakthrough with 1952’s The Life of Oharu, a devastating drama about the plight of women in feudal Japan that heralded an extraordinary run of masterpieces for the filmmaker lasting until his untimely death in 1956. None of these was more momentous than 1953’s Ugetsu, a sixteenth-century ghost story rendered in Mizoguchi’s signature style of long takes and flowing camera work. Drawing on disparate literary sources—two short stories by eighteenth-century Japanese writer Akinari Ueda and one by French master Guy de Maupassant—the director fashioned an exquisite exploration of female sacrifice and male vanity out of the tale of two couples sundered during wartime, the men’s foolish pursuits of worldly glory inducing them to abandon their wives, and ultimately leaving them stranded in strange and supernatural realms. In this excerpt from a supplement on our edition of the film, which we released in a Blu-ray upgrade this week, Japanese New Wave filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda (Double Suicide) discusses how Mizoguchi seamlessly weaves together narrative modes, interlacing harsh realism and spellbinding fantasy to heighten the tale’s tragedy and mystery.
John Bailey Breaks Down a Tour de Force of Gothic Lighting
The veteran cinematographer takes a close look at the highly stylized and atmospheric lighting in one of the most pivotal scenes in pre-Code classic The Story of Temple Drake.
All About Mankiewicz
One of the most celebrated Hollywood writer-directors of his time, Joseph L. Mankiewicz offers a window into the way he sees his characters in this illuminating clip from an archival interview.
Charisma to Burn: Béatrice Dalle’s Incandescent Debut in Betty Blue
The young French actor didn’t require much direction for her first screen role. As the film’s director and cinematographer recall, she quickly proved herself to be a born star.
How Paweł Pawlikowski Reimagined His Parents’ Fiery Romance for the Big Screen
As the director explains to filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the love story at the heart of the Oscar-nominated drama Cold War has its roots in his own family history.