Next Monday, as part of its monthly Director’s Choice series, the Ragtag Cinema in Columbia, Missouri, will screen a supernatural fable from Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi, selected by filmmaker David Lowery for its influence on his acclaimed new drama A Ghost Story. Made just a few years before Mizoguchi’s untimely death at fifty-eight, the 1953 Ugetsu proved one of the crowning achievements of a nearly four-decade career bridging silent and sound cinema, applying the sinuous long takes that had become his signature to a haunting story about the tragic dynamics between men and women. In the film, two couples wind up torn apart during a devastating sixteenth-century civil war, the foolhardy husbands’ thirst for fame and fortune carrying them forth toward strange and spectral destinies, while their wives are forced to fend for themselves on an increasingly ravaged home front. “One might say that Mizoguchi’s detached, accepting eye also resembles that of a ghost, looking down on mortal confusions, ambitions, vanities, and regrets,” writes Phillip Lopate in his liner essay for our edition of the film, in which he finds “a powerfully anchoring stillness at its core, a spiritual strength no less than a virtuoso artistic focus.”
Two Stark Visions of the American Underbelly Hit the Big Screen
A new restoration of the groundbreaking vérité documentary Streetwise joins its companion piece, Tiny: the Life of Eric Blackwell, at New York’s Metrograph theater this weekend.