Friday, October 13, 2017
The Ghost of Yotsuya
Based on a play by Nanboku Tsuruya, Tokaido Yotsuya kaidan (The Ghost of Yotsuya) is the story of a samurai who wants to marry a woman against the wishes of her father by killing him only for things to go terribly wrong due to his ambitions. Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa and screenplay by Masayoshi Onuki and Yoshihiro Ishikawa, the film is an exploration of greed and ambition. Starring Shigeru Amachi, Katsuko Wakasugi, Shuntaro Emi, Ryuzaburo Nakamura, and Noriko Kitazawa. Tokaido Yotsuya kaidan is an eerie yet gripping film from Nobuo Nakagawa.
Set during the era of ancient Japan, the film revolves around a ronin samurai warrior who wants to marry the daughter of a lord only to be rejected as he responds by killing her father and another lord. It’s a film that explores a man’s need for position in the world of the samurai and lords as he does whatever it takes to do that as he would marry the daughter of a lord only to reject her in favor of another lord’s daughter. The film’s screenplay explore the desires of Iemon Tamiya (Shigeru Amachi) as a samurai with no master who is eager to rise up the ranks in society as he approaches a couple of lords who were walking on their way home as they reject Iemon’s offer only to be killed with the help of Iemon’s co-conspirator Naosuke (Shuntaro Emi).
After killing the son of a lord in Yomoshichi (Ryuzaburo Nakamura), Iemon takes Oiwa (Katsuko Wakasugi) as his wife while Naosuke would take Oiwa’s sister Osode (Noriko Kitazawa) his bride in the hope they would raise their own social status. Even though Oiwa would give Iemon a son, it’s not enough until Iemon gets the attention of the revered lord Kihe Ito (Hiroshi Hayashi) who would hand his daughter Ume (Junko Ikeuchi) to marry him. He and Naosuke would conspire a way to get rid of Oiwe as they would involve an admirer of Oiwe in Takuetsu (Jun Otomo) where it would only cause a lot of trouble for Iemon.
Nobuo Nakagawa’s direction is definitely stylish for the way he would open the film with this scene from a kabuki play as it sets the stage for what is to come. The following sequence is this long scene that is presented in one entire take where Iemon talks to two lords about marrying Oiwa leading to a samurai duel where it’s presented in a wide shot with a dolly track to capture everything that is happening. Nakagawa’s usage of the wide shots would play into a lot of the coverage into this area where it show the air of ambition in Iemon as he is determined to rise up in the ranks. Much of the film’s first and second act is about Iemon’s desire to be important as Nakagawa would use some close-ups and medium shots to capture his life with Oiwa in their small and dilapidated home. The film’s third act is where the horror would emerge as it relates to everything Iemon has done where it involves ghosts, snakes, and surreal hallucinations as there’s elements of guilt but also revenge on the part of those Iemon had wronged. The film’s climax isn’t just about Iemon dealing with the consequences of his actions but also be confronted by those he had affected both dead and alive. Overall, Nakagawa creates an entrancing yet eerie film about a ruthless samurai warrior who kills and manipulates those for his thirst of power and status.
Cinematographer Tadashi Nishimoto does incredible work with the film’s colorful cinematography with the usage of the Eastman color film stock and Shintoho Scope format as it captures a lot of detail into the way many of the exteriors setting look as well as the array of lighting for some of the interiors and the horror scenes are presented. Editor Shin Nagata does excellent work with the editing as it’s largely straightforward to play into the impact of the suspense and drama as well as going into more stylistic form for the film’s third act. Production designer Haruyasu Kurosawa does amazing work with the look of some of the exteriors in the ponds and places in rural Edo as well as the home that Iemon lived in with Oiwa. The sound work of Yoji Dogen is fantastic for its approach to sound effects from the way it captures natural sounds to the moments it would play into the suspense. The film’s music by Michiaki Watanabe is brilliant for its mixture of discordant string music as well as the usage of percussions that help add to the sense of terror in the film.
The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Hiroshi Hayashi as the warlord Kihe Ito, Junko Ikeuchi as Ito’s daughter Ume that Iemon is pursuing, Jun Otomo as a kind admirer of Oiwa in Takuetsu as a man who becomes a pawn in Iemon’s scheme, Noriko Kitazawa as Oiwa’s sister Osode who finds herself married to Naosuke as she wonders what is really going on, and Ryuzaburo Nakamura as Yomoshichi as the son of a Japanese lord who is trying to go after a samurai who killed his father only to be targeted by Naosuke and Iemon early in the film. Shuntaro Emi is excellent as Naosuke as Iemon’s assistant and conspirator who helps him rise to ambition in the hope he can get a share of the money and glory as he later starts to see strange things.
Katsuko Wakasugi is brilliant as Oiwa as the daughter of a warlord who becomes a victim of Iemon’s ambitions due to neglect and manipulation where she copes with everything she’s dealing with and her eventual discovery of his ambitions. Finally, there’s Shigeru Amachi in an incredible performance as Iemon Tamiya as a ronin samurai who is determined to be important in the rank of the samurai as he would marry the daughter of a warlord only to neglect her in favor of another warlord’s daughter as it’s a very dark performance of a man who schemes and such only to deal with the consequences of his actions.
Toikado Yotsuya kaidan is a phenomenal film from Nobuo Nakagawa. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a compelling story, and an eerie music soundtrack, it’s a film that is this unconventional ghost story of sorts that showcases the fallacy of ambition and greed where a samurai would face his own actions. In the end, Toikado Yotsuya kaidan is a sensational film from Nobuo Nakagawa.
Nobuo Nakagawa Films: (Vampire Moth) – (The Depths) – (Black Cat Mansion) – Jigoku
© thevoid99 2017
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