Jolly Cinema > 18:30


Teinosuke Kinugasa


Monday 26/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

A kabuki actor specialising in female roles (onnagata) orchestrates an elaborate revenge on the villains responsible for his parents’ deaths. The most famous version of this story was made in flamboyant colour by director Kon Ichikawa in 1963, marking the 300th film performance by its star, Kazuo Hasegawa. Under his earlier stage name of Chojiro Hayashi, the actor had starred nearly 30 years earlier in Kinugasa’s version of the story, a huge commercial hit in its day, but rarely screened outside Japan. As in the remake, Hayashi (a regular collaborator with Kinugasa) appeared in a dual role, playing not only the onnagata Yukinojo but also the gentleman thief Yamitaro.
The source novel was by Otokichi Mikami (1891-1944), a prolific author who earned himself the nickname of the “Balzac of Japan”. He was influenced by a diverse range of Western writers including Turgenev, Victor Hugo, Zola and Oscar Wilde. Yukinojo henge, which was serialised in the “Asahi Shimbun” newspaper between 1934 and 1935, is his most famous work. The Japanese title carries a double meaning; “henge” refers to a costume change in the theatre as well as to a ghost.
Kinugasa may have taken a particular interest in the subject matter since Japanese films up to the early 1920s employed onnagata and he himself, before becoming a director, had been one. The film was originally released in two separate feature length episodes in June and October 1935; the first was scripted by jidaigeki master Daisuke Ito, the latter by Kinugasa himself. This condensed single feature is all that survives.
Though Kinugasa’s version lacks the delirious visual impact of its remake, it creatively uses special effects and expressionist lighting, while the period atmosphere is delineated with exceptional precision. The “Kinema Junpo” reviewer admired the film’s high production values, Kohei Sugiyama’s camerawork (which was praised for capturing the aura of the kabuki theatre) and the acting by Hayashi and Naoe Fushimi. The film ended up ranking tenth in the “Kinema Junpo” critics’ poll of that year. Audiences too enjoyed Hayashi’s performance in female guise so much so that he played onnagata not only in the remake, but in other films, including Kinugasa’s own Hebihimesama (Snake Princess, 1940).

Alexander Jacoby e Johan Nordström


Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1935) di Otokichi Mikami. Scen.: Daisuke Ito, Teinosuke Kinugasa. F.: Kohei Sugiyama. Int.: Chojiro Hayashi (Yukinojo Nakamura / Yamitaro / madre di Yukinojo), Tokusaburo Arashi (Kikunojo Nakamura), Kokuten Kodo (Dobe Sansai), Akiko Chihaya (Namiji), Naoe Fushimi (Ohatsu), Yoshindo Yamaji (Kadokura Heima), Yasuro Shiga (Hiromiya), Kinnosuke Takamatsu (Nagasakiya), Komei Minami (Hamakawa), Ryoma Kusakabe (Yokoyama). Prod.: Shochiku. 35mm. D.: 97’. Bn.

Foto © National Film Archive of Japan