Yukinojo’s parents were driven to suicide by three local officials when the actor was just a child. He grows up to become a well-known ‘onnagata’ (a man playing female roles). In 1863, he travels with his kabuki troupe to Edo (Tokyo). When he discovers his three archenemies in the audience, he plots revenge. He engages in a brilliant sword fight with henchmen of the clan leader. He sets the estate of a fraudulent trader ablaze before death overtakes his adversaries in the theater, making it a ‘moral institution’ … The film frames its star, Chojiro Hayashi/Kazuo Hasegawa, who plays several roles, including one female, in a soft, ‘feminine’ light. There is a notable alternation between the traditional bright lighting of the theater scenes, which have a documentary effect, and the high contrast look of the ‘real’ sequences, which hew more to Hollywood lighting techniques. This work was the most successful of Teinosuke Kinugasa’s ‘jidaigeki’ (period films) with Japanese audiences. Originally running more than five hours, it was shown in three parts between June 1935 and January 1936. However, only the 1952 feature version has survived.
Japan 1935-36/1952, 97 min
Chojiro Hayashi (=Kazuo Hasegawa)