In solidarity with Liverpool Trans Pride (Assemble 1pm., Sunday, 31 March, Derby Square)
Trans Pride and An Actor's Revenge will be introduced by leading Liverpool trans activist Kelly Stubbs.
Kon Ichikawa locates his 1963 film An Actor’s Revenge, in the Japanese kabuki theatre of the 1830s; in the Tenpō era. Going by the stage name Yukinojō, Yukitarō is an onnagata, a male actor who not only takes on female stage roles, but also in life adopts the dress and persona of a woman.
One night on tour with his company, during a performance in Edo, Yukitarōrecognises three gangsters in the audience: the men who ruined his parents; driving them to suicide when he was just seven years old. The rest of the film shows him conducting his elaborate, theatrical and terrible revenge.
An Actor’s Revenge is a highly idiosyncratic creation by this giant of Japanese cinema. The aesthetic style is anarchic, with film genres thrown together in strange juxtapositions.
Techniques drawn from kabuki theatre are employed alongside of those from silent cinema as well as 1960s pop-art culture; visual references to traditional Japanese silk prints are used alongside references to Western cinema traditions; and the score ranges from classical Japanese orchestra to lounge-jazz.
This film is full of tricks. The actor who plays Yukitarō, Kazuo Hasegawa, also plays the thief Yamitaro who narrates the film; a technique that allows for knowing self-references that only a discerning audience will notice. Hasegawa had also played the same role in a 1935 version of the story; again introducing an ironic flavour to his performance.
An Actor’s Revenge is above all a psychological melodrama, in which the real and the surreal are churned into questions of identity and one’s sense of self; the actual theatre in the end being the mind of Yukitarō himself.
Dramatically complex and visually stunning, Ichikawa’s 1963 masterwork is a genuine cinema event. This is a film not to be missed.