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on 11 February 2012
I have a great affection for all Japanese classic directors like Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ozu, Naruse, Kinoshita. This was the first movie I saw directed by Kon Ichikawa. When I say one man standing alone I surely can say that Ichikawa's vision is unique with this movie. The story revolves around the revenge of a kabuki actor to the people who harmed his family both his mother and father. Long has he waited for the moment and the means to reach his purpose is no more no less than cruel to these people. The background of the movie is the late 19th century. The artist tools by Kon Ichikawa are foremost majestic: starting with an amazing ever speaking lighting on the set, to the design of the sets, colors and concluding with the cinematography. The final wrapped product is an ode to the Japanese theater kabuki and to one of the oldest and experienced actors Kazuo Hasegawa, who accomplished with this film his 300th role. He plays two characters in the movie: the women impersonator and one of the thieves that are fighting to help the poor survive the lack of food.
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on 2 May 2015
As expected
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on 14 October 2009
As the film notes say, this was a bizarre project - a remake of a 1935 film, with the actor Hasegawa playing the same roles 30 years later.. both a kabuki female impersonator and a thief. The main story is a tragedy (look out for the Garden of Gethsemane moment)interwoven with a comedy sub-plot.
Don't expect realism - there is a strong theatrical feel to the visuals, which I think works extremely well with the plot/subject matter, and there is much hamming up in the comedy acting. Given a difficult task, director Kon Ichikawa constructed a highly creative, somewhat surreal solution, within which there are some intensely moving moments.
I found this film stunning to watch; some of the scenes reminded me of Japanese prints, and I had to watch it again the next day, pausing it frequently just to take in the costumes and sets. Even the make-up and facial expressions echo the actor prints of the early 19th century.
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HALL OF FAMEon 10 December 2008
A man playing a beautiful woman playing a love scene with a beautiful woman may seem confusing. It may seem odder when the man playing the beautiful woman is also the actor playing a resourceful, ironic chief of bandits who shares several scenes with himself playing the beautiful woman. It may seem odder still that the actor was 55 years old, one of Japan's acting treasures, and carries off both roles with complete aplomb. And he should. Kazuo Hasegawa played the same roles in the first filming of Yukinojo Henge 28 years earlier.

Stay with this 1963 movie by Kon Ichikawa and you'll find yourself immersed in a story of revenge, humor and clever style that is not only odd but engrossing and amusing. The story is set in 1830's Edo in the world of Kabuki where highly trained male actors, onnagata, play women's roles. By law they must maintain the pretense in manner and dress in private life as well as in public. Yukinojo Nakamura (Kazuo Hasegawa) is a famous onnagata. During a performance he spots the businessmen who, 20 years earlier in Nagasaki, drove his parents to suicide. He was 11 then. Revenge has been his goal ever since. One of the men has a beautiful young daughter, Namiji, who falls madly in love with Yukinojo, as women often did with onnagata. She is pledged to the shogun, and she will be the lever for Yukinojo's revenge. But then there is Ohatsu, a beautiful pickpocket with a lovely face, an impertinent manner and a vocabulary that can make men blush. She falls in love with Yukinojo, too. And there is her boss, the master thief Yamitaro (also played by Kazuo Hasegawa). Yukinojo is calm, sad and remorseless, with a husky falsetto voice and walking with tiny steps. Yamitaro is athletic, confident and even impish, with a growl of a voice. Soon Ohatsu and Yamitaro will be urging Yukinojo on. Adding to the questionable amusement, Yukinojo, Namiji and Ohatsu are all virgins, with Namiji and Ohatsu eager for Yukinojo, so arousing in expensive kimono with his falsetto, to cure their situation,

All of this is conducted by Kon Ichikawa using one of the most stylish, sly mixes of movie making I've ever seen. There are flashbacks, voice-overs, confidences shared in whispers, a slashing sword fight or two, a ghost, elaborate Kabuki performances, a realistic rice riot and visuals that move within a reality as carefully constructed as the Kabuki sets. That's not to mention the jazzy riff that moves in now and then with Yamitaro and a corny melodic line worthy of Fifties' Hollywood. I'm almost sure Kon Ichikawa uses it deliberately. You're never sure how this stylized movie of many movements is going to end. Kon Ichikawa pulls it all together in a fine film that will probably puzzle some but should delight most. Just remember two things: Revenge is real and the innocent can pay. And that Ohatsu realizes Yamitaro has possibilities...he looks a little like Yukinojo.

Central to the story and to the delight of the movie is Kazuo Hasegawa. To cast it in Western terms, think of Russell Crowe not only playing Bud White but also, in a blonde wig and a low-cut, sheer white dress, Lynn Bracken. Well, that's probably a step too far. Hasegawa, at 55 and not denying middle age with a slight, soft double chin, is not only persuasive in both parts, but persuasive with the two completely differentiated sets of characteristics. He was a huge theater and movie star for years in Japan and, early in his career, trained as a Kabuki actor. Part of the humor of the movie, as well as the appreciation that comes from watching talent and skill, is Kon Ichikawa moving quickly from one scene with Hasegawa as Yukinojo to the next with Hasegawa as Yamitaro.

Revenge of a Kabuki Actor (Yukinojo Henge) may or not be a classic. Still, it's strange and it's beautiful. Perhaps it's a strange, beautiful classic. The color DVD transfer is just about perfect. Subtitles are outlined in yellow and easy to read. The Program Notes are a series of written comments about Kabuki, about Japan in the 1830's, explanations of some of the film's references and the importance and credits of Kon Ichikawa and Kazuo Hasegawa.
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on 30 January 2014
odd, haunting, 60s-avant-style, engrossing film about an oldtime kabuki female-role-actor on an undercover vendetta mission. starring the great Hasegawa Kazuo reprising a youthful (1935) dual role for his 300th (& only subtitled) screen outing. director Ichikawa Kon uses way too much music as usual but otherwise a weird & wonderful experience.
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on 24 February 2013
I chose this movie more or less at random from the local library and now I'm buying it.. it is simply compelling from the first scene and never lets up. My expectation was not high for a movie made 50 years ago, but I found it to be timeless both in terms of theme (revenge, love) and treatment (kabuki style, highly formalized). If you seek a taste of Japan in the West, this is one good source that reaches out to everyone wherever they are from.
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on 1 December 2013
Interesting, very well-made film, for those with a deep interest in the offbeat and in Japanese films in an unrealistic style.
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on 28 July 2014
a genuine masterpiece! Try it and see!!
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on 16 January 2016
Strangely difficult film.
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