A rich tapestry of deception, greed, and vengeance, Kon Ichikawa's An Actor's Revenge is a film with familiar themes seen in many revenge stories, detailing, in-depth, the human condition's self-serving nature and the collateral damage left along any trail driven solely by self-serving interests, no matter how justified they may be. The story is centered around Yukinojo, the leading female impersonator in a touring kabuki troupe, who tracks down the three men responsible for his parents suicide many years ago. He uses his status to befriend these powerful men in society, imploring seduction and a coercive nature to ruin them financially, physically, and spiritually, and in doing-so, he essentially becomes them due to the tragic death of one of their daughters, an individual whose only crime was falling in love. From start-to-finish, An Actor's Revenge is simply stunning, as Ichikawa uses this tale to deliver powerful assertions about vengeance; the most interesting being the monolithic, all-consuming nature of revenge. The three men Yoshinojo seeks to destory are all men from positions of power and authority in society; They are businessman and individuals with political power, who through coercion oppress the merchant & lower class, which our main protagonists parent's were members of. Yet in Yoshinojo's quest for vengeance he destroys the young daughter of one of these men; a woman whose only crime was her proximity to her father. An Actor's Revenge is captivating from start-to-finish and emotionally affecting, but what separates this film from others dealing in similar themes is its craft, as it finds Kon Ichikwawa at the top of his game, delivering an impressionistic melodrama which conforms to the artistry of the stage play, whenever possible. An Actor's Revenge is crafted in a style which draws heavily from the stage play, imploring the efficient economics of these productions, where light and darkness are an ally, used to inform the viewer and/or heighten the tension and the visceral nature of the spaces these characters inhabit. Perhaps the best example of this is Ichiwawa's use of overhead lighting, a device he uses to call attention to the internal workings of his characters, whether it be a sinister idea which arises in their head or a subtle realization, the lighting informs the audience in a way mise-en-scene alone simply couldn't accomplish with such impressionistic detail - the economics of stage play production implored cinematically. Kon Ichiwawa's An Actor's Revenge is a rich and compelling story of vengeance, a film which may be the celebrated Japanese filmmakers greatest achievement, one which exhibits the emptiness of revenge through its complex, engaging narrative.
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