Teinosuke Kinugasa

Sog.: Fuji Yahiro. Scen.: Teinosuke Kinugasa, Jun Sagara. F.: Hiroshi Imai. M.: Kanji Suganuma. Scgf.: Shigeru Kato, Atsuji Shibata. Mus.: Akira Ifukube. Int.: Raizo Ichikawa (Dokyo), Yukiko Fuji (l’imperatrice), Masayo Banri (Chiho), Hikosaburo Kataoka (Abe no Kimimaro), Mieko Kondo (Hiromi), Eitaro Ozawa (Fujiwara no Kiyokawa), Kenzaburo Jo (Fujiwara no Yoshikatsu), Tatsuya Ishiguro (Takeuchi no Mahito), Jun’ichiro Narita (Ichihara no Oji). Prod.: Masaichi Nagata per Daiei. 35mm. D.: 98’. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

This was Kinugasa’s penultimate film, his last made at Daiei’s Kyoto studios, and his last as solo director (his final film, Chiisai tobosha, The Little Fugitive, 1966, was a rare Soviet-Japanese coproduction, codirected with Eduard Bocharov). It revisits the Nara period setting of Daibutsu kaigen, and is based on a historical scandal surrounding the Empress Koken (718-770), who abdicated in 758 only to resume the throne under the name of Empress Shotoku in 764. In the interlude between her two reigns, she was apparently cured of an illness by a miracle worker monk known as Dokyo – speculation persists of a romantic relationship between them. After she became Empress for the second time, she lavished favours and promotion on him, ultimately gifting him the title of Chancellor of the Realm. This conduct began to destabilise the court… Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dokyo has earned a reputation in some quarters as Japan’s Rasputin.
The film creates a fictionalised version of these events, exploring their religious, romantic and political implications. For Hayley Scanlon, Kinugasa “paint[s Dokyo’s] fall from grace as a Buddhist parable about a man who pays a heavy price for succumbing to worldly passions”. Dokyo is played by matinee idol Raizo Ichikawa (1931-1969), who until his tragically early death from cancer was one of Daiei’s biggest stars. The Empress is played by Yukiko Fuji (1942-2022), who was again to star alongside Ichikawa in Ken (1964), shown at Bologna in 2022. Her brief cinematic career ended with her marriage to fellow Daiei star Jiro Tamiya the following year.
Kinugasa and Ichikawa were both asked personally by Daiei head Masaichi Nagata to work on the picture. Nagata chose Fuji Yahiro (1904-1986) to write the script, but Yahiro claimed that the finished film dramatically transformed his conception; indeed, Kinugasa was ultimately credited as screenwriter. The “Kinema Junpo” critic complained about the film’s primary focus on romance, to the exclusion of historical and social context. However, any viewer enthused by visual spectacle should appreciate the crisp, contrasty black and white cinematography of Hiroshi Imai, which recreates the atmosphere of the Nara era in a series of sumptuous and decorative yet telling images.

Copy From

courtesy of Kadokawa Corporation