A 1920s playwright (Yûsaku Matsuda of "Black Rain") meets a beautiful woman (Michiyo Ohkusu) who may be the ghost of his patron's deceased wife.
With "Zigeunerweisen" being a commercial and critical success, Suzuki teamed up again with producer Genjiro Arato, and this time had double the budget. With "Kagero-za", the source material is a short story by Kyoka Izumi, a writer most famous for his idiosyncratic Gothic-flavored ghost stories. And, indeed, this very much captures the "spirit" of Suzuki's Taisho series.
The plot is intentionally obscure and unclear. The beautiful woman, Shinako, remains unnamed for almost the first half of the film, as is her identity as Tamawaki's wife, if in fact that is who she happens to be. Some ambiguity is necessary for the story to play out as it does, but it is taken an extra step by being purposely vague with identities. (Rather than a shortcoming, this could be seen as a strength, as it would encourage repeat viewings for a deeper understanding, not unlike "Mulholland Drive" or other David Lynch films.)
According to critic Tony Rayns, "Kagero-za... may well be Suzuki's finest achievement outside the constraints of genre filmmaking." Variety called it a "beautiful film" and said it was an "Orientalized" take on Luis Bunuel, which is not only complimentary, but apt. Still others have compared the film to Luigi Pirandello's theater of the absurd, which may be going a bit too far.
Arrow Video has released the film on Blu-ray as part of their Taisho Trilogy set. Though perhaps not as celebrated as "Zigeunerweisen", there is much to love about "Kagero-za" and the film is worthy of deeper exploration and contemplation.
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