With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, October 16, 2015

AN ACTOR'S REVENGE reviewed; showing this Saturday evening at Japan Society NY

Japan Society NY
presents
Kon Ichikawa Restorations
An Actor's Revenge © Kadokawa Corporation.
An Actor's Revenge / Yukinojô henge
Directed by Kon Ichikawa
With Kazuo Hasegawa, Fujiko Yamamoto, Wakao Ayako,
Ganjiro Nakamura, and Raizo Ichikawa.
Japan, 1963, 114 minutes, 35mm, color

When: Saturday, October 17, 2015 at 7:00 pm
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street, NYC

Synopsis (courtesy Japan Society):

Ichikawa was assigned to remake Teinosuke Kinugasa's 1935 melodrama An Actor's Revenge, and enormously popular film in its day, after Daiei studios' dissatisfaction with the returns on the director's previous films. Seeing potential in the material, Ichikawa worked with his wife, Natto Wada, to transform the pulpy source material into a spectacular visual masterpiece. Veteran film actor Kazuo Hasegawa reprises his original role as Yukinojo, an onnagata (a kabuki actor who specializes in women's roles) during the Tokugawa period who seeks revenge on the men responsible for the ruin and suicide of his parents. Ingeniously conceived and executed as a mix of hyper-stylized kabuki theater and Western cinematic realism, An Actor's Revenge features some of Ichikawa's most elaborate use of the widescreen frame, spotlighting Yoshinobu Nishioka's breathtaking production design and Setsuo Kobayashi's vivid Cinemascope photography.

Review:

This remake of An Actor's Revenge was touted by Daiei as Kazuo Hasegawa's 300th film. In both versions he plays not only the main character, the actor Yukinojo Nakamura, but also Yamitaro, a chivalrous thief who helps the poor and befriends Yukinojo. (According to IMDb, in the original version, Hasegawa, billed as Chôjirô Hayashi, also played Yokinojo's mother!)

Namiji (Ayako Wakao, right) watches Yukinojo perform

Ayako Wakao, who is now over 80 years old and still appears on Japanese television shows, is absolutely stunning as Namiji, the daughter of one of the three men against whom Yukinojo seeks revenge.  She falls in love with Yukinojo, which, given his avocation, makes for an interesting relationship.

Raizo Ichikawa, who starred in Ichikawa's Conflagration, here has a small role as Hirutaro, a thief known as the "Noon Kid," as opposed to the more famous Yamitaro, who is called the "Dark Kid."

While, like Her Brother, An Actor's Revenge is largely a melodrama, it's pace is much more varied than that of the former. There are some lively action scenes involving swordplay between Yukinojo and  Heima Kadokura ( Eji Funakoshi, Fires on the Plain). Years earlier the two had been fellow favoring Yukinojo.

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars, highly recommended.

This screening of An Actor's Revenge is part of the three film mini-series Kon Ichikawa Restorations.

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