Ugetsu | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

I know I'm not the only critic who counts Ugetsu (1953) among the greatest of films. Kenji Mizoguchi brings a poet's eye to this tale of two men who flee their feudal village in a Japan riven by war, pursuing wealth and pleasure. The ever-changing relationships between people and the land, between the two men and their ultimately failed vanities, are well described by Mizoguchi's camera movements; he avoids overly static or pictorial compositions in favor of images full of delicate light and shifting shadows. The director's asymmetrical arrangements of people and objects stress the spaces between things as much as the things themselves; at times empty space seems as much a subject as the visible world. The ending returns one of the men, a potter, to a traditional life of modest work; the repeated shots of the potter's wheel and the pans that integrate him and his young son with their rural community movingly represent the potter's abandonment of his earlier hubris in favor of a balanced relationship with his family, agriculture, work, tradition, and the soil. The film is being shown in a rarely screened 35-millimeter print. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, December 1, and Thursday, December 8, both 6:00 PM, 443-3737.

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