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.
Digging Through Movie History at Chaplin’s Studios
Film scholar Craig Barron gives us a tour of the studios on whose back lot Charlie Chaplin built the set for his final film of the silent era, The Circus.
Career Women in the Land of Lubitsch
Critics Molly Haskell and Farran Smith Nehme talk about the highly idiosyncratic heroines who populate Ernst Lubitsch’s comedies, including the protagonist of his final film, Cluny Brown.
Ritwik Ghatak’s Pursuit of Truth Beyond Realism
Acclaimed Indian filmmakers Saeed Akhtar Mirza and Kumar Shahani discuss how the Bengali master mixed expressionism and naturalism in his devastating domestic tragedy The Cloud-Capped Star.