The Special Night Event at the Kabukiza Theatre returns for the third year as the highlight of TIFF's Japanese Classics section.
■Date: October 27 (Thu)
Chûshingura (Digital Longest Version)
"Chûshingura" is a famous story of revenge known to every Japanese. This epic 1926 film starred Onoe Matsunosuke Onoe, Japan's first movie star, who appeared in over 1,000 films in his short lifetime. The specific military formations and tactical organizational maneuvers in the film are based on extensive research of historical documents, setting the standard for the many subsequent productions of Chûshingura.
Storyline: Takuminokami Asano, the lord of the Akō Domain, loses patience after being repeatedly insulted by Kōzukenosuke Kira and stabs him in the corridor of the Edo Castle. For this, Takuminokami is ordered to commit harakiri (suicide by disembowelment) and the Asano family is discontinued. But the samurai retainers of the Asano family quietly wait for an opportunity to avenge their deceased lord. Chief Retainer Kuranosuke Ōishi pretends to indulge in debauchery day and night to deceive the Kiras, who fear their enemy's vengeance. Finally, on December 14, 1702, Ōishi leads a group of Akō*s masterless samurai to launch an attack on the Kira residence. The samurais' wish to avenge their master is finally fulfilled.
Blood's Up at Takata-no-Baba (Chikemuri Takata-no-Baba)
This film was originally released in 1928 in 11 episodes, but little more than one episode's worth of the work remains today. Yet, even within the confines of the remaining scenes, this masterpiece emanates with the unbounded youth and vigor of director Daisuke Itō and star Denjirō Ōkōchi, who heralded a new era of Japanese silent film.
Storyline: In spring 1694, Yasubei Nakayama is a masterless samurai in Hatchobori, earning his living by settling quarrels. Ashamed of his self-indulgent drinking life, he grabs his precious sword and dashes to his uncle's aid one night. But when he arrives at Takata-no- Baba, he finds his uncle taking his last breath. In a fury, Yasubei slashes through 18 opponents, admirably avenging his uncle's death on the spot.
Sagi Musume (Heron Maiden) Overview
This is one of the greatest dance pieces performed by actors portraying onnagata female roles in Kabuki. As the curtain rises, a young woman in a pure white kimono stands idle by the side of a pond in a constant snowfall. She is, in fact, the spirit of a heron in human form. She expresses in her dance her torment at falling in love with a human, which is forbidden. A quick costume change or hikinuki, when the top layer of kimono is pulled away revealing the next layer, transforms her into the belle of the town. She reminisces about the time when she was with a man and dances seductively, the first highlight of this piece. This progresses onto Teodori — dance with hand gestures — along to then-popular music, where she laments the coldness of the man. Another quick costume change sees the lone maiden in a vibrant dancing scene joined by a group of performers with umbrellas. Gradually, her torturous feelings of forbidden love take their toll and the true nature of the heron's spirit is revealed. As the snow continues to fall, the heron unfurls her wings in anguish and this iconic dance serves as the final act. A rich and varied storyline along with a wealth of traditional Kabuki techniques such as hikinuki make this a hugely popular piece.
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