Tuesday January 5, 2010 23:13

Movie #0002 – An Actor’s Revenge (1963)

Posted by Michael

Revenge is sweet... or in this case, kind of slow and confusing
Directed by: Kon Ichikawa
Starring: Kazuo Hasegawa, Fujiko Yamamoto, Ayako Wakao
First Viewing

Synopsis: After waiting for most of his life, a famed Kabuki actor finally sees his opportunity to exact revenge on the three men responsible for the death of his parents.

Yeah, so I was hoping to watch 12 Angry Men next — I went to the mailbox today all set to pick up my copy of the film, but alas, just bills and junk mail. That left me with only one other list-related option for today: An Actor’s Revenge, which is unavailable on DVD, but of course, available on the internet. Hey, it was either that or not watch it (which, in retrospect, may have been the preferable course of action).

I’ll admit that I had never even heard of this movie prior to flipping through the list, nor had I heard of its director, who was apparently quite prolific in Japan. 1001 Movies calls this “one of the most outrageously entertaining Japanese films ever produced,” which I can’t really say I agree with. On a technical level I admired it quite a lot — the direction, cinematography and score were all quite striking and certainly memorable. The whole look of the film is extremely stylized, and so on a visual level alone it remained entertaining for a while. However the narrative was exceptionally muddled, and there were parts where I had a hard time figuring out what was going on (though it probably didn’t help that as the film went on my attention was really starting to wane).

What else to say about this film? It’s a movie about revenge, which makes you think it’s going to be much more compelling than it is — however, Ichikawa piles on superfluous side-characters and odd asides which really add very little to the film itself. The review in the book states that “the conventions of kabuki theater are affectionately parodied,” so… maybe I needed to know more about kabuki theater to really appreciate this film? I always knew that my lack of kabuki knowledge would come back to haunt me one day.

All in all I’m not sure if I agree that this is one of the essential films of all time, but the visuals were so impressive I’m almost ready to give it a pass just for that.

Buy the movie at Amazon

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