Thursday, 19 August 2010


Tochuken Kumoemon is a renowned actor whose arrogant reputation precedes him. He views the stage as his domain and does not give much consideration to the feelings of his colleagues, a fact that dutiful wife Otsuma knows all too well. She accompanies his theatrical balladry on the shamisen, but this collaboration appears to be the closest the two ever get. Alienated from romantic feelings, Tochuken pursues a young geisha with little consideration for the feelings of his wife or son. Even when Otsuma falls ill, Tochuken refuses to visit under the proviso that it would dismantle their relationship as performers were he to be seen tending to her as a husband.

Tochuken Kumoemon seems to refer to director Mikio Naruse’s own practice, an allegory about keeping one’s feet on the ground in the duplicitious world of theatre. Though not entirely indistinguishable for the audience, the film’s two realities often intertwine, hinting that the viewer is to see the film from Tochuken’s perspective, although he is hardly a sympathetic character. As in Naruse’s later Avalanche, the male lead carries the story, but it is the wife’s sufferance which is intended to resonate with the viewer. Unfortunately, too much effort is expended on profiling Tochuken before the true story begins, and his relationship with his son is scarcely described. There are still strong moments of drama, particularly as Otsuma struggles to get through to her husband, but viewed through the prism of the performer’s ego, they ultimately amount to little true emotion.

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