Mizoguchi was one of the earliest directors of gendai-geki but is best known internationally for two jidai-geki classics: The Life of Oharu (Saikaku Ichidai Onna, 1952), which won a directorial prize at the Venice Film Festival, and Ugetsu (Ugetsu Monogatari, 1953), which won the festival's Silver Lion the following year. A native of Tokyo, Mizoguchi started his career in 1922 as a studio director making films which dealt with the poor and class conflict. Many of his films dealt with the theme of a woman's sacrifice for a man or her family. One of these works, Osaka Elegy (Naniwa Ereji, 1936), brought a new level of realism to early Japanese cinema and is considered among the best early films made in this country.
Ugetsu was based on two of the nine stories of the supernatural in Ueda Akinari's collection 'Tales of Moonlight and Rain' (Ugetsu Monogatari) and a short story by Guy de Maupassant. It draws on Noh theater and was highly praised for its acting performances and camera work. It tells the tale of two 16th century men and the fates befallen by their families while they seek their fotune in war-torn Kyoto. In the scene at left, the former potter Genjuro is bewitched by the spirit of his late wife, killed by soldiers. His brother-in-law Tobei, once a farmer, returns home to find his wife now in a brothel.