Zangiku monogatari (Story of the Last Chrysanthemums) plus Kyokanoko musume Dojoji: Classical Kabuki Dance

“This is (at least) the second remake of Mizoguchi's great classic on Kabuki life. Where, in Japanese remakes and adaptations, only the principal characters remain more or less the same, the survival of Yoda Yoshikata's script shows a rare deference for the integrity of this adaptation of Muramatsu's novel about Onoe Kikunosuke, adoptive son of Onoe Kikugoro V and adoptive brother of the great Kikugoro VI.

“This story of a young Kabuki actor who breaks with his family in order to marry the family nursemaid and the years of hardship they undergo until he is given a chance to make a comeback is structured on a characteristic of society peculiar to the entertainment world, and to Kabuki in particular: no amount of family protection and patronage can hide a bad actor from the audience. In Kabuki, the art must necessarily come before family ties and the history of Kabuki is replete with the tragedies of sons who could not match their fathers, who retired, became ill, or even committed suicide rather than assume a professional name whose reputation they could not live up to. The Onoe break with Kikunosuke so easily because he demonstrates no talent (and the son born late in Kikugoro V's life became the most famous Kabuki actor of his generation): the break has as much to do with his lack of talent as it has to do with the unsuitable marriage he intends to make. It is only Kikunosuke's capacity for obsession, a mark of the Japanese hero, that drives him to perfect his art, and, naturally, to stay with the only one who will criticize him honestly. The tragedy of his wife, who, exhausted by the years of hardship, dies just as he is reconciled with audience and family, is surpassed by that of Kikunosuke himself: he died soon after.

“This is one of those films closed to all actors but Kabuki actors: not only is the actor required to act in a modern naturalist style for his screen role, but he must be able to perform in the scenes from the Kabuki in which this film abounds. The color and wide screen of this film are particularly well-suited to depicting the Kabuki stage which is absolutely brilliant with color. Note that Kikugoro V is played by Arashi Kanjuro, Kabuki actor and one of the greatest of the chambara stars (the Kurama Tengu) of the thirties through the fifties.”

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