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  • Ichikawa supposedly made this movie "to see what cinema could do." He pulls out all the stops and the result is a masterpiece of visual splendor, wit and style that is stunning as well as very entertaining. The story of a man taking revenge against the people who killed his parents is an old cliched melodrama that was assigned to him. But he turns necessity into a virtue by glorifying the kitsch while at the same time keeping an ironic stance. (don't miss a great visual pun involving a gunshot and a crescent moon.)

    He uses the widescreen to full effect in adopting the aesthetics of the Kabuki theater. The sheer visual inventiveness of the movie makes for the best kind of eye candy. There are bold splashes of primary colors and dramatic, very theatrical lighting. Some sets are intentionally artificial-looking while others are not. Somehow the two styles don't clash but instead portray the perfect intermingling of theater and cinema. Similarly, the use of jazz and lounge music(!) seems perfectly appropriate.

    Hasegawa, the lead actor, played the same role in a previous version of the movie nearly 30 years earlier. A man who acts like a woman, seducing a woman young enough to be his daughter lends a touch of the bizarre which just makes things more interesting. The movie is graced by Ayako Wakao, at the height of her incredible beauty.
  • Yukinojo Henge, or "An Actors Revenge" in English can be appreciated on a number of different levels. First of all there is the intricate plans of revenge the kabuki actor main character carries out against those who had been responsible for his parents deaths. Secondly one can enjoy it as a period piece. Those interested in Tokugawa Period Japan will enjoy critiquing the historical accuracy of the film. However what really separates this movie from other tales of revenge and intrigue is in its playfulness.

    The movie was considered a tribute to the actor who played the part of the lead. It was Kazuo Hasegawa's 300th role and the movie was a remake of the 1935 film of the same name. In many scenes you can see Hasegawa injecting himself as an actor into the movie. These can usually be picked up only if one is somewhat familiar with the behind the scenes aspects of the film. If one is aware that Hasegawa is not only playing the main character, but also that of Yamitaro the thief then there are certain parts of the dialogue that take on a new meaning.

    One example of this is when Hasegawa playing the thief witnesses Hasegawa playing Yukinojo Nakamura lying to his love interest and pawn Namiji. After seeing this Yamitaro comments to himself, and also to the audience, that Nakamura is such a great actor, referring to his lies, that he shouldn't be wasting his time with his kabuki troop. Since we as viewers are aware that we are seeing a movie, as well as being aware that the one being commented on is the same as the one doing the commenting, we can see this as Hasegawa making his presence as the actor Hasegawa known. He is essentially complimenting himself saying, "I am such a great actor, why am I wasting my time doing this movie?" There are a couple more instances of similar playfulness between the three part relationship of Hasegawa as Hasegawa the actor in the reality of the film audience, Hasegawa as Nakamura the actor in the reality of the characters, and Hasegawa as Yamitaro. In one scene Yamitaro explains that the reason he is aiding Nakamura in his quest is because he has come to feel a kinship with him as if he were his brother, again playing on the audience's knowledge that the two "brothers" are played by the same person.

    Another example of how playful the film is can be seen in its cinematography. The main character is a kabuki onnagata, or a male actor who specializes in playing female roles. There are a couple of scenes in the movie that play up on this fact and shoot the movie in a fashion that provides the audience with the feeling that they are watching a kabuki play. In one example there is a swordfight in a forest. Even though the movie is made in the 1960s when it would have been very possible to have realistic looking backgrounds, the trees do not look real at all. This makes the forest in which they are fighting feel more like a theater set than an authentic landscape. During this swordfight an onlooker says to herself that it is better than watching one on a kabuki stage. Since the audience is aware of the fake scenery, the characters role as an onnagata, and some would even know that the actor himself was once an onnagata, the comment takes on a whole new life than were it an onlooker in a basic action movie watching a scene and saying, "wow that was even cooler than in the movies!" With all of these inside jokes between the actors and the film audience that the characters are not aware of, the movie becomes much more interactive and thus more enjoyable for someone looking for a fun multi-layered movie.
  • GyatsoLa14 October 2007
    This movie is that rare species - a film that doesn't take itself seriously for a moment, and yet is stunningly well made and original.

    According to Donald Richies '100 Years of Japanese Cinema' the director was forced to make this movie (the remake of a popular but very hammy 1930's original) as a punishment for his self indulgence in earlier movies. He responded by turning up the campiness to '11' in Spinal Tap terms.

    Kon Ichikawa manages to take the story of a famous Kabuki female impersonator who wrecks revenge on three powerful men who killed his parents both beautiful (the scenery and photography is stunning) and queasy - everyone seems to fall in love with the rather ugly and very feminine leading 'man'. The story is irrelevant (presumably deliberately so), its all an exercise in style. You can see where Suzuki and many other later directors got a lot of their ideas. Kon is a very talented and skillful film maker so despite the fact that the cast are clearly playing it up for laughs, it is extremely well made, with wonderful sets and tight editing. Despite its origins, it is genuinely entertaining and required viewing for anyone with an interest in Kabuki or Japanese design.
  • A fascinating and painterly film. It often made obvious that it was filmed in a studio. It was very influential and much admired among filmmakers when first released outside of Japan.

    Previously filmed in 1935.

    Two things to know to better understand the story:

    1. Kabuki Actors who specialized in female roles ('onnagata' or 'ayame') used to dress as women even when off the stage. They would wear a piece of purple silk in their hair to hide the area of their scalp that they were required to shave to make them less attractive to other men.

    2. Schools of martial arts, painting, etc. were run by a master ('iemoto') whose word was law. Generally each school had secret teachings that were only revealed to selected students as the master's order.
  • Revenge of a Kabuki Actor (1963)

    *** (out of 4)

    Japanese film about a Kabuki actor (Kazuo Hasegawa) specializing playing female roles who gets a shot at seeking revenge against the three men he feels responsible for his parents deaths. The first part of his plan is to get one of their daughters (Ayako Wakao) to fall in love with him. I had never heard of this film before reading Martin's review a week or so ago and I can't say I enjoyed the film as much as he did but it was a visual treat and I'm glad I caught up with it. On a visual level this thing is damn near a masterpiece with some terrific cinematography as well as some very imaginative shots and ways to tell a story. There are many scenes that pop out but one of the most memorable features Hasegawa playing the actor as well as the thief. The thief climbs up on a roof to talk about the actor as we then get a shot of the actor walking away. I think this segment could have and would have come off quite silly in ninety-nine movies out of a hundred but this is the one case where it works perfectly. Hasegawa himself is brilliant in his role as it really seemed like he was a woman. While watching him trying to seduce the young woman there were many times where I forgot he was a man and this added an even more surreal nature to the film. I was also highly impressed with Wakao. The opening sequence on the stage is another treat for the eyes. If I had one problem with the film it's that it took me nearly fifty-minutes to really get caught up in the story. I'm sure a second viewing would probably take care of this but it did take me a while to take in everything that was going on.
  • As the curtains move aside, those wanting straight-up blood and carnage, will find that "AN ACTOR'S REVENGE" goes down a different path, in what is more a patient theatrical drama of cunning revenge. And a visually striking one too. I was impressed by the audacious wide scope photography and tonal lighting of its stylistic aesthetics, which helped set up the mood and story.

    Kazuo Hasegawa superbly plays a kabuki lead actor Yukinojo Nakamura, specializing as an onnagata (otherwise a female impersonator). His travelling troupe happens to be performing in the village of the three men who drove his parents to suicide when he was a child. How he goes about his revenge is like an actor playing out a part, yet he obviously takes no pleasure out of it with conflicting thoughts and hesitations. Keeping to his strengths though, he manipulates everything to his advantage using his talents and sensuality to a spin a web, and in doing so, causing unwanted grief without physical harm. He doesn't want them to die a swift death, but he wants to ruin them in the attempt to drive them mad, like they did to his parents.

    The material interestingly looks at how sometimes in this quest innocence can be a casualty, and even completing this vengeance, the emotions can't fulfill that loneliness that will always linger. Sometimes that emptiness is replaced by haunting thoughts of those you destroyed to see it through. As this revenge is set in motion, there are certain unplanned obstacles, leading him to show his skill with the blade. To be honest, the few moonlight standoff scenes are quick and nothing spectacular, but it's the imagery and framing of those moments that do stand out. Director Kon Ichikawa does so much with so little. Etched with dazzling details, compact sets, thick on slow exposition and meditative characters (even jarring comic relief) in what is a classy, if distant stage play brought to life.
  • What is so wonderful about this film is Ichikawa's determination to create a filmic language that can relate dialogically to the

    theater language of Kabuki, yet, still facilitate great naturalistic narrative tension. Our sense of space and time is played with to great effect in this story of a great Kabuki actor's search fro revenge against the people responsible for his family's tragic fall. This is a key film of the modern cinema that features breathtaking cinematography, editing and sound. Kon Ichikawa is a neglected master filmmaker whose entire eclectic body of work deserves far more attention than it has received - especially in the United States.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A man playing a beautiful woman playing a love scene with a beautiful woman may seem confusing. It may seem odder when the man playing the beautiful woman is also the actor playing a resourceful, ironic chief of bandits who shares several scenes with himself playing the beautiful woman. It may seem odder still that the actor was 55 years old, one of Japan's acting treasures, and carries off both roles with complete aplomb. And he should. Kazuo Hasegawa played the same roles in the first filming of Yukinojo Henge 28 years earlier.

    Stay with this 1963 movie by Kon Ichikawa and you'll find yourself immersed in a story of revenge, humor and clever style that is not only odd but engrossing and amusing. The story is set in 1830's Edo in the world of Kabuki where highly trained male actors, onnagata, play women's roles. By law they must maintain the pretense in manner and dress in private life as well as in public. Yukinojo Nakamura (Kazuo Hasegawa) is a famous onnagata. During a performance he spots the businessmen who, 20 years earlier in Nagasaki, drove his parents to suicide. He was 11 then. Revenge has been his goal ever since. One of the men has a beautiful young daughter, Namiji, who falls madly in love with Yukinojo, as women often did with onnagata. She is pledged to the shogun, and she will be the lever for Yukinojo's revenge. But then there is Ohatsu, a beautiful pickpocket with a lovely face, an impertinent manner and a vocabulary that can make men blush. She falls in love with Yukinojo, too. And there is her boss, the master thief Yamitaro (also played by Kazuo Hasegawa). Yukinojo is calm, sad and remorseless, with a husky falsetto voice and walking with tiny steps. Yamitaro is athletic, confident and even impish, with a growl of a voice. Soon Ohatsu and Yamitaro will be urging Yukinojo on. Adding to the questionable amusement, Yukinojo, Namiji and Ohatsu are all virgins, with Namiji and Ohatsu eager for Yukinojo, so arousing in expensive kimono with his falsetto, to cure their situation,

    All of this is conducted by Kon Ichikawa using one of the most stylish, sly mixes of movie making I've ever seen. There are flashbacks, voice-overs, confidences shared in whispers, a slashing sword fight or two, a ghost, elaborate Kabuki performances, a realistic rice riot and visuals that move within a reality as carefully constructed as the Kabuki sets. That's not to mention the jazzy riff that moves in now and then with Yamitaro and a corny melodic line worthy of Fifties' Hollywood. I'm almost sure Kon Ichikawa uses it deliberately. You're never sure how this stylized movie of many movements is going to end. Kon Ichikawa pulls it all together in a fine film that will probably puzzle some but should delight most. Just remember two things: Revenge is real and the innocent can pay. And that Ohatsu realizes Yamitaro has possibilities...he looks a little like Yukinojo.

    Central to the story and to the delight of the movie is Kazuo Hasegawa. To cast it in Western terms, think of Russell Crowe not only playing Bud White but also, in a blonde wig and a low- cut, sheer white dress, Lynn Bracken. Well, that's probably a step too far. Hasegawa, at 55 and not denying middle age with a slight, soft double chin, is not only persuasive in both parts, but persuasive with the two completely differentiated sets of characteristics. He was a huge theater and movie star for years in Japan and, early in his career, trained as a Kabuki actor. Part of the humor of the movie, as well as the appreciation that comes from watching talent and skill, is Kon Ichikawa moving quickly from one scene with Hasegawa as Yukinojo to the next with Hasegawa as Yamitaro.

    Revenge of a Kabuki Actor (Yukinojo Henge) may or not be a classic. Still, it's strange and it's beautiful. Perhaps it's a strange, beautiful classic.
  • JSL2628 October 2001
    A man playing a woman who seduces a beautiful young woman to help pull off a plan to achieve revenge against three moguls who were responsible for his parents' death? Sounds like a real loser, but instead it is a sensitive beautifully acted and amazingly staged movie. The sets alone are worth the price of admission.

    The young woman is really beautiful and the Kabuki actor is convincing as a woman and a swordsman. The actor playing the actor, K.Hasegawa, also plays a local tough guy who helps the actor.
  • This is an Ichikawa film so expect anything short of sheer visual awesomeness and yer a fool. Impeccably staged, superbly lighted and shot with remarkable flair for atmosphere, this one deserves a watch on its technical cinematic merits alone. The plot relates the adventures of a Kabuki stage actor plotting revenge against those who disgraced and drove his parents to madness and suicide, apparently a readaptation of a 30's movie. Everything is very campy though and the protagonist, a feminine man with a pathetic croaky voice dressed in woman's clothes, is bound to induce a fair amount of groans. Obviously related to the material at hand, Ichikawa stages and shoots the movie in a stylized theatrical manner. The intentional artificiality of sets and lighting perfectly mirrors that. Perhaps the best thing about it is the use of colour, with bright reds, yellows and whites offering a vibrant counterbalance to the almost complete darkness of other set-pieces. All in all, I didn't find the dramaturgy of the film very involving and I suspect Ichikawa didn't care for it either. From a technical standpoint however it is certainly commendable.
  • There are some truly beautiful scenes here, particularly the marvellous use of widescreen in the colourful kabuki sequences and Kazuoha Segawa is faultless in the duel central role. He plays dressed as a woman on the stage but seems also to live out his life this way and he also plays his thieving side-kick. Apparently played for laughs throughout it is difficult for a non Japanese to fully appreciate much of the subtlety and Shakespearean style play on words. Indeed, for me, the whole is rather too mannered and stagey. There is much blurring between stage and 'real life' which some find charming but I tend to find rather confusing and lifeless.
  • A masterpiece and one of the finest uses of widescreen in all of cinema. Kon Ichikawa chose to film "An Actor's Revenge" in the style of Kabuki Theatre since that, indeed, is the film's subject or at least part of it. Yukinojo, (a magnificent Kazuo Hasegawa), is the leading actor and female impersonator in a theatre troupe when, one evening, he spies in the audience the men responsible for his parent's deaths and immeadiately he swears his revenge. What follows is a blackly comic tragedy, at once theatrical and yet wholly cinematic and quite unlike anything in Western cinema. The fact that Hasegawa is playing a dual role only adds to the magic and the mystification. Utterly extraordinary.
  • I've seen other works by director Kon Ichikawa, but this stands out in its artistry.

    Yukinojo is "onnakata" - an actor who plays a part of a woman, but he's also a master swordsman. The facade of being an actor is a cover to approach his sworn enemies who've lead to the death of his parents. He succeeds in approaching his arch enemies, but he's not going to kill them with his swordsmanship, instead he resorts to deception.

    Acting and cinematography is one of the best I've seen in samurai movies from Japan. This was made in the golden age of samurai movies, and it shows. Plot has many subplot supported by luminaries of Japanese cinema. There isn't a spot of imperfection in this movie.

    Style is somewhat dated by todays standards, but its artistry is stunning.

    A masterpiece of samurai movie.
  • Even though I have watched numerous Japanese classics, this still took a bit of time for me to become engrossed. First of all, the milieux of the Kabuki theatre was relatively new to me. I had to accept the main character being Irresistible to women, despite wearing the makeup and clothing of a woman, on and off the stage. Also, it took a bit of time to be introduced to his role-the revenge for the death of his parents when he was a child. There is a subculture of pickpockets and thieve that supply a comic relief, and it took a while to realize that. But once he began to do his thing, it was difficult to look away. Unfortunately, there were innocent victims and he brings his own curse, sort of like a Shakespearean tragedy does where there are ultimately no winners.
  • "Actor's Revenge" only fails to extend times that do not collaborate for its construction, generating two underworlds. In the first we have the scenes of action and revenge in a world full of frenzy, in another, we have the oscillations of character, the questionings and a whole insertion of poetic images that take much of the film and give it a contemplative rhythm and consequently dragged, But both underworlds are linked by the precise performance of Yukinojo (Kazuo Hasegawa), who is divided between an actor specializing in women roles of the Kabuki Theater and who wishes to avenge the death of the parents. And as second character, a pickpocket, a thief.

    Kon Ichikawa, a famous Japanese director, known for his meticulously perfectionist but commercially fruitless films, was commissioned to readjust the novel Otokichi Mikami, and consequently, along with his wife and frequent collaborator, screenwriter Natto Wada, transformed what would be a Banal melodrama in a delirious, highly stylized and idiosyncratic spectacle.

    From the outset, Ichikawa's irreverent and sarcastic mood would set the infectiously playful but stylistically audacious and self-assured tone of the kitsch eccentric fusion of high-end art and pop culture.

    "Actor's Revenge" is a stylistically daring and irreverent satire that seeks to reconcile the familiar and traditional elements of native culture with the modern vitality of Western influence in contemporary Japan. Recurring fragmentation of Ichikawa's images reflects the voyeuristic relationship between the spectator and the artist: obscure and prolonged battle scenes, witnessed by rooftops, seamless visual transitions between theatrical dramatization and stylized, "real life" episodes, the framing of Actors through doors or other visual occlusions that seem to underscore the intrusive view of the public. The old-fashioned script for the tragic melodrama (shimpa) popular early in Japanese cinema is infused with irony, social satire, and dual-minded visual subversives.

    The eccentric fusion of traditional and modern Japanese art forms is exemplified by an eclectic soundtrack that combines traditional accompaniment of kabuki, folk music, jazz and avant-garde ambient sounds.
  • I have seen several hundred Japanese films but am far from an expert on these movies. After all, I am not Japanese and don't always understand some of the subtleties in the pictures. For example, in "An Actor's Revenge", the main character (Yukinojo) is a man who performs as a woman on stage--that I knew and understood. However, he maintained this persona off-stage as well and I wondered just how unusual this was--did other male Kabuki actors also maintain this persona when they weren't acting? If you can answer this question, I would love to hear from you.

    The film begins at a Kabuki performance. Yukinojo has recently come to Edo (Tokyo) and has been planning revenge on three scoundrels for many years. It seemed these wicked men were responsible for destroying his family and he sees himself as the instrument of revenge--much like the character in another famous Japanese film, "Lady Snowblood". However, he doesn't want to just stab them--he wants to have them linger and give him a chance to revel in their destruction. Part of it, however, depends on using the daughter of one of these wicked men--and the lady is innocent of causing any harm to anyone. What's Yukinojo to do? And, what is he to do when several ancillary characters blunder or wander into his plans?

    There were several things I liked about the film. First, the various thieves who were no necessary to the film helped to give the film greater depth and, in an odd way, fun. Second, the film was made in many ways like the entire production was ALL part of a play. Often, using interesting lighting and sets, it looked as if the line between the off-stage and on-stage was often blurred. It made the film truly memorable. Overall, well worth seeing and gloriously artistic.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'An Actor's Revenge' begins on the stage, with a female impersonator dancing whilst fake snow falls around. It is a beautiful way to begin a film, and emphasises Ichikawa's use of style to test the boundaries of cinema. We get a quick insight into the plot, and it is a revenge plot, where those responsible for death but suffer. The film is very cinematic but also very theatrical. The simplicity of some sets, such as the night time shots just being completely black apart from some sparse lighting directed at the actors. This adds a simplistic but interesting view of the story we are presented with. Kazuo Hasegawa impresses in a dual role, where he plays both Yukinojo Yakamura, the actor seeking revenge, and a thief named Yamitaro who helps out our protagonist. While watching I didn't even realise these were the same person, despite thinking they looked very similar. Hasegawa plays Yukinojo as a very feminine man, being very gentle and quiet but we never forget that he is a man. As the thief he comes off as a charming renegade. From what I have read elsewhere the film is very accurate to period Japan, and includes the very slightest detail. Rather than just follow a simple, kill-revenge plot outline, Yukinojo falls in love with the daughter of one of those he has sworn kill. The relationship is one of escalating tragedy as we all know this cannot go smoothly. He starts off as just toying with the girl but ends up having feelings for her. This adds a hard hitting impact of a punch when she dies. Also falling in love with Yukinojo is a female thief, she sees Yukinojo as her escape from the life of a thief and to start life as a real woman, but Yukinojo is determined for revenge. This film isn't always perfect, although the wide-screen adds to the beautiful shots, the film is also slow at points and has trouble breaking from other films in the revenge category. This is a wonderful film for anyone with patience, so they can survive through the dull bits. One scene is actually quite frightening where Yukinojo demonstrates his acting abilities by driving a man insane. The excellent soundtrack, I swear has moments of jazz, but this doesn't detract from the film.
  • jboothmillard21 November 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    I obviously wanted to watch this Japanese film because it appeared in the page of the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and the title certainly sounded interesting enough. Basically the story follows Yukinojo Nakamura (Kazuo Hasegawa), a leading female impersonator, who is in a touring kabuki troupe performing. By chance he happens to come across the three men who twenty years ago apparently led his parents to committing suicide, and he wants his revenge for them doing this. He is going to do this not by killing them, although that could come into play later, but by getting the daughter of one of them men to fall in love with him and ruin their lives, and by ruining them financially. I cannot say much more than that, as I didn't really understand everything going on to get this story rolling, and it being rather unusual most of the time. Also starring Fujiko Yamamoto as Ohatsu, Ayako Wakao as Namiji and Ganjiro Nakamura as Sansai Dobe. Despite not understanding most of the film, the performance by the lead actor spending most of the time in drag does a good job, and the film is filled with great costumes and a great use of vibrant colours, so it is not a bad drama. Good!
  • This movie is quite unlike any other I have ever seen. Oddly, one of the strangest things about it is the lighting. Much of the action occurs in the dark with just spotlights on the actors. This gives it a very stagy surreal feel. It takes place in historic Japan where people demonstrate their wealth not by cramming rooms with furniture, but by having gigantic carpeted empty rooms, with nothing in them but perhaps a stool. I found these starkly elegant and immensely pleasing. The exotic are things that come from Holland. It is fun looking through the Japanese side of the lens of history.

    Characters often pose perfectly still for minutes an a time while some other character does something or narrates.

    Yuki is a male who plays female roles in traditional Kabuki theatre. He always appears in elaborate female clothes. He is has a double chin. He is quite homely, both as male and female, but for reasons never satisfactorily explained seems irresistible to both males and females even though there are many other characters of either sex much better looking. He is also skilled at sword fighting. He is preposterously polite, effusive and self-effacing. The basic plot is seeking revenge for horrible things three men did to his parents. He subtly manipulates his enemies to do each other in.

    A kabuki actor who wanders around is drag offstage does not seem to raise any eyebrows, except for people who don't realise he as an actor. Nobody seems to be the tiniest bit embarrassed by their attraction to him, perhaps annoyed or frustrated, but not ashamed.

    The plot is operatic, very high emotions and drastic crazy behaviour. Kabuki theatre is definitely an acquired taste, but this movie is quite accessible and anything but boring.

    There is one actor who plays two major roles. They give you a hint who it is near the end of the movie. See if you can pick it out earlier.
  • kosmasp19 June 2014
    It seems to really get behind this, you have to understand a couple of things before watching this movie. Like reading into the job description of our main character, who has to dress like a woman on stage, but also off stage at times. If that sounds confusing wait til you see the movie. But while it does make sense (especially the fact that you can remain hidden from people who should be able to identify you), it'll also might be deal breaker.

    The version I saw played at the Festival in Berlin and we got a thorough introduction for the movie. It's really a good one, but as I said, can be very confusing (more than other movies). The movie also might feel more than dated to some, which is a fair assumption to make. Still, if you have love for Japanese cinema, you will watch it either way