Under Kon Ichikawa’s direction, this remake of a 1935 film by Teinosuke Kinugasa becomes a fascinating visual spectacle, which simultaneously marks the 300th film appearance of actor Kazuo Hawegawa. Staged with haunting elegance, the film tells the story of Yukinojo, a performer of women’s roles in Kabuki theatre in the nineteenth century, who is obsessed with avenging the death of his parents. While acting in a touring production, he looks into the audience and sees the three men who drove his parents to suicide 20 years before. With cunning, intrigue and the help of one of the three’s daughter, who has fallen in love with him, he sets about destroying their lives.
Ichikawa plays around with illusion and reality and weaves them into a delirious widescreen work full of vivid colours. The action remains within the stylised stage setting; the boundaries between on- and offstage become blurred and repeatedly flow into one another. The soundtrack also draws on the same stylistic blend of tradition and modernity, moving effortlessly between Japanese classical music and suggestive jazz.