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Oh, huh. I never took the reuniting at the end as fantasy (as-in, it's something purely that he imagined), but rather, like Lady Wakasa, a ghostly, supernatural visit of something lost in the times of war; though a departing visit from his wife and not one that will happen again.

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Oh, I can't speak for Scott, but me too. But I think he's using "fantasy" broadly to mean "not reality."

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Correct. I should have been clearer on that.

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May 31, 2023Liked by Scott Tobias

Thinking about it, how one reads "fantasy" and "not reality" with regards to that scene was going to be inherently ambiguous (getting an interaction with a spirit that is one's ideal life, but then having to face the cold "reality" the next day does leave it confusing how to refer to the spirit encounter, which since it's a movie that's already had a kwaidan/folktale subplot, you take to be as "real", at least momentarily, as anything else - but if the cold reality is "real", then how do you refer to the ideal (one might say "fantasy" of life) of the previous night, then?). I think the comparison to King of Comedy is what threw me in the literal interpretation of the scene (plus, it's been about 6 months since the last time I saw it, so I wasn't sure if the "imagined" version of the encounter was something other people did, since I had never considered it).

Anyhow, the movie itself - I've only seen a few Mizoguchi films with the recent being Life of Oharu. I have to admit, I think I prefer that one more, though I wonder if like Kobayashi's Kwaidan, I just kind of take well-made kwaidan films from the 50s and 60s for granted for what they're doing well. Ugetsu does have some good fog on a lake and I do enjoy some good fog on a lake.

With respect to the sliding down the list, I think one thing I've wondered, and I saw a similar thought in an excerpt from, I think the '92 Sight & Sound introduction of the editor wondering, "how would this list turn out if most of the critics we asked were in Japan?" Which, I know S&S is supposed to ask critics from around the world, but I have no idea what that distribution is like. I do wonder if someone tabulated just the ballots from Japanese film critics how well Mizoguchi would do in that subtotal. Would the gap between him and Ozu and Kurosawa be as steep? Which other classic Japanese directors would then show comparatively high up on that list?

Given that people tabulated a summed list of every movie on every single ballot, it would be nice if someone with too much time on their hands would make some accessible aggregate of the data where we could recreate the list by filters on the ballots (my interest being, filtering by country/region). But that's just me wondering out loud. But, I guess that's also the point of other lists that exist.

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The composition of the voting body would most definitely affect the outcome, and while it's clear that S&S 2022 had an initiative to bring more women and persons of color to the table, I don't know how much global reach was a priority. I'd absolutely LOVE more data like what you describe-- even something simple like individual pages showing which critics voted for a certain movie seems both helpful and doable. More filters beyond that would be delightful.

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May 30, 2023Liked by Scott Tobias

Perfect film and its gradual drop down the list is undoubtedly one of many reasons why I’m unable to take the Sight and Sound list as seriously as I might have in the past.

Janus/Criterion really could have done a better job trying to put him on equal footing with Kurosawa and Ozu - “Criterion-core” definitely had an oversized influence on the Sight and Sound list and they haven’t done anything with Mizoguchi’s filmography in six years (and even then there’s only the two of his films that are ever really talked about over here) so I think a lot of the voters with shallower film histories easily gloss over him.

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Funny Ugetsu anecdote. I attended a revival screening at a local theater. In front of me were two boisterous bros, all high fiving and absolutely pumped. They were openly questioning the composition of the audience though ahead of the screening. As it turns out they thought they were attending a screening of Return of the Jedi which was the revival screening the week before. I gathered they bought the tickets online and mixed up the dates.

To their credit, once they realized their mistake they decided to watch Ugetsu anyway, and to the film's credit they stayed awake, engaged, and at the end were just as wrecked as the rest of the audience.

If I were to hazard a guess on the diminishing regard for this film, it does squarely present a world where women have no agency. That's just a tough pill for modern audiences to swallow, even if it was presented as sympathetic for its day. Whatever griping may go on in social media, audiences embrace self-determined women. You could argue the Lady Wakasa does have some degree of agency, as the last "surviving" member of her house, but even as a spirit she's bound to fulfilling her familial obligations. The other women are little more than slaves in their own homes. The scene on the lake where the husbands make their wives row pictured in the article just felt wrong.

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To be fair, both films feature war and ghosts. (And Yoda's name is almost certainly borrowed from UGETSU screenwriter Yoshikata Yoda.)

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I went on a serious Mizoguchi binge a few years back, taking in all of his films released by Criterion and a few that haven’t thanks to a friend who had them in VHS. (Princess Yang Kwei Fei is one that deserves a higher profile.) Along with Naruse, he is seriously undervalued.

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