Kon Ichikawa’s An Actor’s Revenge (also known as Revenge of a Kabuki Actor) is one of the more unique revenge stories I’ve seen. Unlike most in films of its kind, the main character in this one attempts to exact his revenge by manipulating the victims until they each do each other in. It’s that manipulation, that game-playing, as well as a sharp visual style, that makes An Actor’s Revenge a treat to watch.
The story is pretty simple. A famous actor, known as one of the best female impersonators in the land, attempts to take revenge on three men who wrong his family many years ago. The method of taking that revenge is where the complications lie, and it’s where all the fun is. The characters are all a lot of fun to watch, including an array of side characters, all thieves and robbers that balance out the darker tone of the main plot.
The other area in which An Actor’s Revenge excels is it’s visuals. Ichikawa brings an amazing theatrical style to the imagery of the film that feels like a stage without every feeling stage-y. I am a sucker for any solid use of anamorphic widescreen photography, but An Actor’s Revenge is way beyond solid. It’s beautiful. Stunning. The imagery is incredible. It adds a strange, almost ethereal quality to the film, with great compositions and some of the best use of colour I’ve seen, right up there with the likes of Gone With the Wind and The Red Shoes.
An Actor’s Revenge falls right into that space of a good story well told. And not only is it well told, it’s also incredibly beautiful to watch. It’s a fun film. It’s got a great dark streak. I loved watching the revenge plot play out, with all its complications and missteps. It’s the kind of film that I could probably recommend to anybody willing to watch a movie with subtitles. It’s quality entertainment.