Ugetsu: Wikis


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Original poster to Ugetsu (1953)
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Produced by Masaichi Nagata
Written by Matsutarō Kawaguchi
Akinari Ueda
Yoshikata Yoda
Starring Masayuki Mori
Machiko Kyō
Kinuyo Tanaka
Music by Fumio Hayasaka
Distributed by Daiei
Release date(s) Mar 26, 1953 (Japan)
Sept 7, 1954 (USA)
Running time 94 min.
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Ugetsu is a 1953 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Set in 16th century Japan, it stars Masayuki Mori and Machiko Kyō, and is inspired by short stories by Ueda Akinari and Guy de Maupassant. It is one of Mizoguchi's most celebrated films, regarded by critics as a masterwork of Japanese cinema.

The film's original Japanese title is Ugetsu monogatari (雨月物語), which means "Tales of the Moon and Rain", sometimes translated as "Tales of Moonlight and Rain" or "Tales Of The Pale And Silvery Moon After The Rain".[1] The title was shortened when the film was released in the United States.



Ugetsu is set in villages which line the shore of Lake Biwa in Ōmi Province in the late 16th century. It revolves around two peasant couples: Genjurō and wife Miyagi and Tōbei and wife Ohama who are uprooted as Shibata Katsuie's army sweeps through their farming village, Nakanogō.

Genjurō, whose side business is the manufacture of earthenware pots, takes his wares by cart to nearby Ōmizo. Tōbei, a man with hopes of becoming a samurai, follows him to assist in selling his pots. At the village their wares are sold, and they receive a surprising amount of money, as it is a time of war and soldiers need the pots to carry supplies and food. Tōbei sees a warrior and begs to become his assitant. Tōbei is ridiculed and told he can never be a warrior unless he gets his own spear and armor.

Genjurō and Tōbei's wives await their husbands` return. A respected sage tells Miyagi, Genjurō's wife, to warn her husband about seeking profit in time of upheaval, and to prepare for a probable attack on the village. When Genjurō arrives, his wife is surprised to see all the money he has made. With some of the money, Genjurō has purchased a modest kimono for Miyagi. She loves her much longed for gift, but stresses to Genjurō she loves the gift because of his kindness and not because of the item itself. She does not want him to return to the village to sell more pots and wishes that they remain a happy family. Later, Tōbei arrives, disgraced and, as his wife, Ohama, says, looking like a beggar.

Genjurō, set on making a larger profit during the next trip to Nagahama, works long hours to finish his pottery. After he snaps at his son, Genichi, for interrupting, Miyagi, who is helping him, tells him he is a changed man. Tōbei helps Genjurō load his pots into his home kiln, with the promise of a third of the profits. The two men fall asleep by the kiln, exhausted. Their wives worry that they have put their hopes and dreams in the kiln as well and fear what will happen if the pottery is lost.

That night Nakanogō is attacked by soldiers. "Hide your women," shout villagers as they scatter into the woods. Genjurō refuses at first to leave the kiln, fearful the fire will go out, and tells Miyagi to prepare some rice for their escape into the woods, though it is too late. Eventually Genjurō, Miyagi, and Ohama escape into the woods, but Tōbei stays behind. He attempts to steal a samurai's armor, but fails and goes to the woods. Though Genjurō is sure that Tōbei was taken for forced labor, he comes back to tend the fire of the kiln, but finds the fire has gone out. Miyagi follows to coax him back into the safety of the woods. Soldiers search, but do not find Genjurō or his wife. Distraught, Genjurō and Miyagi pull some pieces of pottery from the kiln and rejoice when they find the pottery not ruined, as they had supposed, but ready to sell. They decide to take the pots to a different marketplace across the lake.

Ohama, the daughter of a boatman, mans an abandoned boat and sings across the lake. Out of the thick fog a boat appears. They fear the man laying prone in the boat is a river spirit. "I am not a ghost," whispers the beaten man. Leaning forward for a drink, the man tells them he was attacked by pirates, warns them back to their homes, then falling into his boat, dies. Genjurō and Tōbei push the boat away, murmuring prayers for the man. The two men decide to return their wives to the shore. Tōbei's wife refuses to go, saying she will help sell the pottery. Miyagi begs Genjurō not to leave her, but is left on the shore with their young son clasped to her back. Tōbei, Ohama, and Genjurō cross the river and arrive at the marketplace.

At market, Genjurō's pottery sells very well. After taking his promised share of the profits, Tōbei runs off to buy samurai armor. His wife, not wanting to lose their hard-earned money to Tōbei's dreams, pursues him but is unable to find him. Tōbei then buys a suit of armor and spear, and sneaks into the ranks of a clan of samurai.

Lost from her companions, Ohama, exhausted, has wandered beyond Nagahama in her desperate search for Tōbei. After running into a group of warriors, she is raped by more than one soldier. As the soldiers leave her in torn clothing, one soldier further dishonors her by throwing some coins at her feet as he leaves. She stumbles outside and curses them and her foolish husband.

Genjurō is visited by a beautiful noblewoman and her servant, who order several pieces of pottery and tell him to take them to Kitsuki Manor. On his way, Genjurō stops at a kimono shop and dreams of buying his wife a bundle of kimonos. The noblewoman and servant find him there and offer to direct him to the manor. The Kitsuki Manor lies in ruins, and during dinner Genjurō learns that soldiers have attacked the manor and killed all who lived there, except Lady Wakasa and her servant. He also learns that Lady Wakasa's father haunts the manor. Genjurō is seduced by Lady Wakasa, and she convinces him to marry her.

Meanwhile, Nakanogō is under attack. Miyagi and her son hide from soldiers and are found by an elderly woman who hurries them to safety, pressing food into the mother's hands. Miyagi accepts the food and escapes into the woods with her son. In the woods, several soldiers, starving and weak with hunger, desperately search her for food. "The food is for my son," she begs. She fights with the soldiers and is stabbed. She collapses with her son still clutching her back.

Tōbei stalks a mortally wounded officer and adjutant that he has happened across. As he watches, the officer instructs his adjutant to behead him, presumably to restore his honor in the face of having failed to hold his ground (soldiers are seen retreating in the background). The high ranking soldier, distraught, obliges and is immediately set upon by Tōbei, who spears him fatally and seizes the officer's head. Tōbei later presents the severed head to the commander of the victorious side, who identifies it as that of the great general, Fuwa Katsushige. The commander doubts Tōbei's claim of having killed the officer with his own hands, but nevertheless rewards him with armor, a mount, and a retinue.

Genjurō has returned to Nagahama and is buying kimonos for his mistress Lady Wakasa. He does not have enough money for all of the items he wishes to purchase, and while bartering with the seller, mentions that he is staying at Kitsuki Manor. The seller, suddenly rattled, pushes all of the goods across to Genjurō, telling him to take them and to leave. Confused, Genjurō makes his way back to Kitsuki Manor, and on the way meets a priest who tells him that the mark of death is on him. He is told to return to his loved ones or certain death awaits him. Genjurō mentions the noblewoman, and the priest reveals that the noblewoman is dead, that he must have her exorcised, and then invites Genjurō to his home.

Tōbei rides into the marketplace on his new horse with several vassals flanking him. He is eager to return home to show his wife. However, he visits a brothel and finds his wife fighting with a customer over money. Shocked, he learns that she has been working at the brothel. She wishes to die, but could not do so until she saw Tōbei once more. Tōbei, distraught, promises to buy back her honor. Later, the two return to the Nakanogō, Tōbei sans armor.

Genjurō returns to Kitsuki Manor. Lady Wakasa fawns over her gifts, then asks Genjurō to return with her to her native land. He refuses, and admits that he is married, has a child and wishes to return home. Lady Wakasa will not let him go, and again asks him to return with her. She attempts to touch him, but cries out and pulls away. Her servant rips his clothes from his back. The priest has drawn Sanskrit symbols over Genjurō's body, which protect him. They admit they are spirits, returned to this world so Lady Wakasa, who was slain before she knew love, could experience its joys. She tells him to wash away the symbols. Fearful, Genjurō reaches for a sword and swings it wildly around. He throws himself out of the manor and passes out. The next day, he is awakened by angry soldiers. They accuse him of stealing the sword, but he denies it, saying it is from the manor. The soldiers laugh at him, saying the manor was burned down over a month ago. They snatch his earnings and leave him, telling him that he's lucky. Genjurō arises and finds the ruined manor he has lived in is nothing more than a pile of burnt wood.

Genjurō returns home. Miyagi, delighted to see him, will not let him tell of his terrible mistake. Genjurō holds his sleeping son in his arms, and eventually lies down to sleep. The next morning, Genjurō wakes to a neighbor knocking on his door. The neighbor is surprised to see Genjurō home, and expresses concern. He explains that he has been caring for Genjurō's son, and that the boy must have come to his old home in the middle of the night, somehow knowing Genjurō would return home. "The bond behind parent and child is strong," says the neighbor. Genjurō calls for Miyagi. The neighbor asks if Genjurō is dreaming, saying his wife is dead.

Miyagi's spirit tells Genjurō: "I am always with you".


Ugetsu won the Silver Lion Award for Best Direction at the Venice Film Festival in 1953. The film appeared in Sight and Sound magazine's top ten critics poll of the greatest movies ever made, which is held once every decade, in 1962 and 1972. In 2000, The Village Voice newspaper ranked Ugetsu at #29 on their list of the 100 best films of the 20th century.


On November 8, 2005, Ugetsu became available for the first time on Region 1 DVD when The Criterion Collection released a 2-disc edition of the film, which includes numerous special features such as a 150-minute documentary on Mizoguchi directed by Kaneto Shindo.[2] The boxset also includes a booklet with an essay and three short stories from which the film draws inspiration: Akinari Ueda's "The House in the Thicket" and "A Serpent's Lust", and Guy de Maupassant's "How He Got the Legion of Honor".

On April 21, 2008 Ugetsu Monogatari became available in the UK for the first time on Region 2 DVD released by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema series. The 2 x disc special edition containing new transfers is released in a double pack which twins it with Oyu-Sama (Miss Oyu, 1951).

The box set includes a 64 page booklet, featuring writing by Keiko I. McDonald (author of Mizoguchi and editor of Ugetsu) and award-winning translations of Ueda Akinari’s "The Reed-Choked House" and "A Serpent’s Lust", tales adapted by Mizoguchi in Ugetsu Monogatari. Video lectures on Ugetsu Monogatari and Oyu-sama given by Tony Rayns, an expert on the cinema of the Far East, are included in this edition.


  1. ^ Tony Ryan, commentary track on the Region 1 DVD.
  2. ^ The Criterion Collection: Ugetsu by Kenji Mizoguchi

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