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Movie Poster of the Week: Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Ugetsu”

A selection of international posters for one of the world’s most beautiful films.
Above: German re-release poster for Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1953); designed by Hans Hillmann.
Universally regarded as one of the most beautiful films ever made, Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu, a.k.a. Ugetsu Monogatari a.k.a. Tales of the Pale and Mysterious Moon after the Rain, is being re-released in a 4K restoration at New York’s Film Forum starting today. An unquestionable masterpiece, Ugetsu might yet be in need of a boost in reputation. In 1962, nine years after its release, it was voted the 4th greatest film ever made in the decennial Sight & Sound poll. By 1972 it had slipped to number 10 and ten years later it was out of the top 10 altogether. In 2002 (the next poll I can find records for) it was at number 34 and in the most recent poll in 2012—despite a gorgeous Criterion DVD box set release in the interim—it had fallen to number 50.
For a film with such a global reputation I was surprised how few international posters I could find: nothing from Poland or Czechoslovakia, meaning that the film was quite probably never released in Eastern Europe; nothing from Sweden or Denmark, nothing from Cuba, and I couldn’t even find a good French poster which is unusual given how revered Mizoguchi is by French cinephiles. Instead, I have found a number of Japanese designs of all shapes and sizes and a handful of posters from Italy, Germany and the UK.
Though Sentaro Iwata’s poster below is gorgeous, I would never have recognized it as Ugetsu, and I feel that none of the posters really capture the essence of the film’s beauty: the misty, silvery chiaroscuro of its black and white cinematography (courtesy of the peerless Kazuo Miyagawa). So it makes sense that, for their current re-release poster, Janus has stuck with Michael Boland’s lovely photographic montage from his 2005 Criterion cover. Of all the illustrated posters, Hans Hillmann’s German design, above, probably comes closest to capturing the ethereal quality of the film.
Above: Japanese poster by Sentaro Iwata (1901-1974).
Above: Japanese poster, probably from the original 1953 release.
Above: Japanese poster, also probably from the original 1953 release.
Above: Japanese chirashi or herald.
Above: Japanese speed or flyer from 1955.
Above: 1972 Japanese re-release poster.
Above: 1972 Japanese re-release herald.
Above: Italian poster, artist unknown.
Above: 1960s UK re-release poster, design by Peter Strausfeld; US release poster.
Above: Janus Films’ 2017 re-release poster. Design by Michael Boland.
Ugetsu runs through March 9th at Film Forum.

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