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Directed Kon Ichikawa
Starring Fujiko Yamamoto, Kazuo Hasegawa, Ayako Wakao

Legendary Japanese director Kon Ichikawa (Fires on the Plain, The Burmese Harp, 47 Ronin) brings film fans this story of revenge. Revenge of the Kabuki Actor was recently released on DVD by Animeigo.

The Movie

Set in the 19th century Edo, Revenge of a Kabuki Actor tells the tale of Yukinojo (Kazuo Hasegawa), a very skilled Oyama. An Oyama is a male actor that plays the parts of females in Kabuki Theater. Yukinojo is very talented, popular and absorbed in his art. This dedication to his craft helps him to mask the hurt from a painful past.

While on tour in the city, Yukinojo sees from the stage one night Dobe, the magistrate that was involved in the deaths of his parents. This chance sighting puts thoughts of revenge in Yukinojo’mind.

The plan is formulated and put into play. Not only will the Magistrate suffer, but also Kawaguchiya and Hiromiya, Dobe’s associates. Yukinojo will not only use his wit, but also use his powerful acting skills and his charm and persuasive personality to bring shame and revenge to those who have wronged him and his family.

Helping the plot along is an unexpected twist. Dobe’s daughter, Namiji, falls in love with him after a performance. Will Yukinojo get the revenge he seeks and how much emotional and physical wreckage will occur before this story reaches its bitter end? I will leave that up to you to discover and not spoil it further in this review.

Revenge of a Kabuki Actor is lavish, dramatic and stunning in its ability to tell this dramatic story with just minimal usage of action. The pacing of the film and the overall film itself is much like Kabuki theater itself.

The cinematography by Setsuo Kobayashi is simply gorgeous. Ichikawa and Kobayashi had worked together on The Burmese Harp and Fires on the Plain and if you have seen those films, then you know that his photography and eye for detail is remarkable. Kobayashi’s lens captures the lavishness of the Kabuki theater and the burning intensity behind every seemingly subtle move of the main character Yukinojo brilliantly.

The performances particularly that of Kazuo Hasegawa as Yukinojo, are noteworthy. The part of Yukinojo is difficult but seems effortless in the skilled hands of Hasegawa, who you might recognize from Chushingura (1958), a film that also featured Shintaro Katsu, of the Zatoichi films.

If you are a Japanese film fan, you know that this belongs on your shelf. If you aren’t and you think that all Japanese films are samurai with swords or ninja’s hiding in trees, you owe it to yourself to see this exquisite film.


The Video

Revenge of a Kabuki Actor is presented in anamorphic widescreen The colors are vibrant and the overall image is decent and the level of detail is impressive.


The Audio

Revenge of a Kabuki Actor is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. It is available on both the Restored Audio track and the Original Audio track, both sound fine with dialogue clear on both. There are three options for subtitles: All Subtitles, Dialogue Only and Captions. All feature a choice of White or Yellow subtitle colors. I have always preferred yellow subtitles, but have many film fan friends that hate it. So, now we can all be happy.  Animeigo has always impressed in the category of subtitles and it is no different on this release.


The Packaging and Bonus Features

Revenge of a Kabuki Actor is presented in standard amaray case with an elegant image of Yukinojo on the cover. In the category of bonus features, there are a few things to explore. There is text material in the program notes. There is also the trailer and image gallery.

While not much is offered in this category, the film is wonderful cinematic experience.


Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10

The Review
The Movie 8/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 4/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10