A rebellious Korean artist tests the limits of his sadistic patron, an omnipotent feudal Japanese lord. Yoshihide demands a commission to paint screens of the Hell which he sees the ... See full summary »
A rebellious Korean artist tests the limits of his sadistic patron, an omnipotent feudal Japanese lord. Yoshihide demands a commission to paint screens of the Hell which he sees the egotistical lord's peasants suffer. Such a public display will challenge the uncaring upper class' obsession with their own personal beauty. With Chinese and Buddhist influences at a peak in 11th century Japan, the daimyo Horikawa wanted a mural of Buddhist paradise. As Yoshihide's ghastly artworks appear to come to life, the painter and his patron's mutual racism also take their toll. Written by
Though I've seen most of his older stuff, my current impression of Tatsuya Nakadai derives from "Ran," "Kagemusha," and an appearance at Berkeley's PFA. At the latter, he appeared, as Japanese can, stiffly polite, a bit broader of chest than I would have expected, though age brings that, and at least, I think, average height, in an immaculate gray suit. His fluidity of movement in the 1969 "Jigokuhen" startles me even against the early samurai roles. While Kinnosuke Nakamura, playing Lord Hosokawa, embodies in every movement the calm attached to his character's status, Nakadai's never still. Nakamura looms, of course in court, but no less so crouched over Yoshihide's daughter or alone, pacing. Nakadai leans, bobs, treads air, seldom or never freezes. Even in the presence of court women, of anyone but his daughter or her suitor, he seems always the shortest person on screen. Think of Jean-Louis Barrault in Jean Renoir's Jeckle/Hyde film "Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier." As the doctor, Barrault's his true height. As Opale (Hyde) he's a foot shorter. The transformation happens before your eyes, with no special effect, and is absolutely believable. Nakadai here rivals that feat.
If "Jigokuhen" were a better film than I think it probably is, I'd elaborate the irony of the Yoshihide's groveling against the Lord's serenity. More startling though, is Yoshihide's lack of humor, against the Lord's embodiment of it. Indeed Lord Hosokawa's the only one in the film to joke, and keeps trying nearly to the end. Yet another case- Milton's Satan certainly wasn't the first-of the bad guy getting most the good lines.
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