An Actor’s Revenge (1963)

An Actor’s Revenge (Yukinojo henge) (AKA Revenge of a Kabuki Actor)
Directed by Kon Ichikawa
Written by Natto Wada; adapted by Teinosuke Kinugasa and Daisuke Ito from a newspaper serial by Otokichi Mikami
1963/Japan
Daiei Studios
First viewing/FilmStruk
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

 

Acting should be bigger than life. Scripts should be bigger than life. It should all be bigger than life. ~ Bette Davis

The versatile Kon Ichikawa makes a beautiful and captivating film in which all the world’s a stage.

Yukinojo Henge (Kazuo Hasegawa) is an acclaimed actor who specializes in women’s roles in the kabuki theater, in which all roles are played by men.  Yukinojo wears female garb off-stage as well and maintains a stereotypical feminine persona.  As a child, he lost both parents to madness and suicide.  He has vowed revenge on the three men responsible. The first ploy he adopts is to make a government official’s innocent daughter, who has been given as a concubine to the shogun, fall in love with him.

We follow the elaborate revenge plot.  Concurrently, we also become acquainted with a female thief that also falls for Yukinojo, the thief Yamitaro (also played by Hasegawa) who comments on the narrative, and a swordsman who has his own scores to settle with the actor.

Hasgawa is phenomenal in both his roles in this one.  It is fascinating watching him mimic demure girlish gentleness while disguising a heart of stone.  The other outstanding aspect is the production.  It’s one exquisite color composition after another.  Highly recommended.

Exploration of the use of theatrical wide shots in the film

2 thoughts on “An Actor’s Revenge (1963)

    • I thought about that. I don’t know that it really changes the revenge story but somehow it makes the actor seem more male if that makes any sense. The female thief eventually fell for both of the characters.

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