A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Monday, January 8, 2018

Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (Nobuo Nakagawa, 1959)

Katsuko Wakasugi in Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan
Iemon Tamiya: Shigeru Amachi
Oiwa: Katsuko Wakasugi
Naosuke: Shuntaro Emi
Yomoshichi: Ryuzaburo Nakamura
Osode: Noriko Kitazawa
Ume Ito: Junko Ikeuchi
Maki: Kikuko Hanaoka
Kihe Ito: Hiroshi Hayashi
Takuetsu: Jun Otomo
Samo: Shinjuro Asano

Director: Nobuo Nakagawa
Screenplay: Masayoshi Onuki, Yoshihiro Ishikawa
Based on a play by Nanboku Tsuruya
Cinematography: Tadashi Nishimoto
Production design: Harayasu Kurosawa
Film editing: Shin Nagata
Music: Michiaki Watanabe

Keisuke Kinoshita's 1949 version of the much-adapted ghost story, Yotsuya Kaidan, jettisoned the supernatural in favor of the psychological, turning the protagonist, Iemon, into a somewhat more sympathetic, even tragic figure. But ten years later, Nobuo Nakagawa went straight for the horror: a bloodthirsty, ambitious Iemon, who doesn't even need Naosuke's Iago-like promptings to descend straight into murder. In fact, if you try to apply psychology to Nakagawa's Iemon, you'll run up against some blank walls: It's hard to understand why Iemon in this version even bothers to settle down to a life of umbrella-making after his slaughter of Oiwa's father and his complicity in Naosuke's dispatch of Yomoshichi, his rival for Osode's hand. By this time, Iemon is steeped in blood so far that "returning were as tedious as go o'er," to put it in Macbeth's terms. In this version, the ghosts of Oiwa and Takuetsu are particularly real and vengeful, not just phantoms of Iemon's imagination, as in Kinoshita's version. They lead Iemon into slaughtering Ume and her father and finally to his own doom. Nakagawa's film lacks the subtlety of Kinoshita's, but in the end I think that's for the good: What you want from a ghost story is catharsis, not irony.

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