It’s time to get 2011 started on the right foot, with a blog post about Kabuki!!
For anyone who has been to Japan (actually, let me qualify that – anyone from the US or certain other countries not including the UK), you’ve seen how absurdly expensive DVDs are there. A movie that might cost $15-20 here in the US will typically cost 3500-4000 yen (read: roughly $35-40, give or take a bit for fluctuations in the exchange rate). Now, Brits who are used to paying upwards of £20 for a DVD might think nothing of this, but that’s double the price I’m used to.
Sadly, DVDs of kabuki performances are even more expensive. This copy of Sukeroku Yukari no Edo-zakura is currently going for nearly 4000 yen on Amazon.jp, marked down from nearly 5000. Count in shipping and the obligatory markup, and you can be guaranteed to be seeing pricetags for roughly $60, if not more, for these DVDs at the Kiinokuniya on 41st and 6th.
A terrible shame, really, as I would love to own a collection of kabuki performances on DVD.
But, ranting aside, I just found out this morning about three kabuki-related DVDs or DVD sets that I wish I could afford.
First is a ridiculously huge box set of the 16 months of “sayonara” performances produced in anticipation of the closing of the Kabuki-za in April 2010 and its subsequent demolition. They look like really nice sets, with full-color booklets, and hopefully a fair number of other extras. Each of eight volumes covers (presumably) two months of performances, so, roughly 12 plays – three in the afternoon, three in the evening, times two months – and costs a whopping 26,250 yen (US$323.24 at the moment according to Google’s exchange rate calculator). Or you can buy the whole set for 210,000 yen ($2,585). Or, you can do what I’m going to do, and just sit here and cry about it. … There is the possibility of the university library acquiring such a thing, though I don’t believe I can in good conscience put in a request or recommendation for it, given the library’s limited budget.
Maybe someday, I’ll get really lucky and just happen upon these at a flea market, or in a clearance bin somewhere, secondhand at BookOff or something (though even at BookOff, even second-hand, Japanese DVDs tend to be upwards of $30…).
The second DVD I’m looking forward to getting my hands on is that of “Ô-Edo no Living Dead.” I remember back in 2007, when the Heisei Nakamura-za came and performed in New York and Washington DC (so hoping they’ll come again soon…), I read in an interview with Nakamura Shichinosuke (I think it was; unless it was his brother), that he was thinking of putting together a kabuki play about zombies. That is to say, an adaptation of the zombie movie to the kabuki stage. And, here it is. One of a great many plays to be shown in movie theatres throughout the country and released on DVD as part of the “Cinema Kabuki” series, it was released in theatres in Japan this past October, and should be coming out on DVD any day now… Enjoy the trailer for it, below:
Finally, Waga kokoro no Kabuki-za (The Kabuki-za of Our Hearts), a documentary about the history of the Kabuki-za, the chief kabuki theatre in the world, which closed this past April and was subsequently demolished; construction is underway on the fourth incarnation of the theatre, if I’m counting correctly, which was originally established in 1889, and has been destroyed in the past by earthquake and fire, and by Allied bombs, but never before intentionally in this manner.
This opens in theatres in Japan on January 15, so it may be some time before we see the DVD (that is, as if it matters – I’m sure they’ll be asking too much money for it).
I think it could be quite fun and quite fascinating to see the top actors talking about their memories and experiences and thoughts, to get a peek behind the scenes, and just to feel a part, in whatever tiny way, of having experienced being there – vicariously through the video – as this incarnation of the Kabuki-za prepared to shut its doors for the last time.