Japan Cuts continues! Of course, there have been plenty of films at the festival that I have not seen. But the one I saw tonight was the unusually English-titled “Someday” (大鹿村騒動記, Ōshikamura sōdōki, lit. Record of the Ōshika Village Disturbance). The film was shown as part of a small tribute to actor Harada Yoshio, who passed away one year ago today, at the age of 71.
In this film, he plays a man who has returned to his hometown after running away with someone else’s wife 18 years ago. She has begun suffering from an Alzheimers-like disease, and has begun confusing Osamu (played by Ittoku Kishibe) for her former husband, Zen (played by Harada). Osamu decides it might be best for them both if Takako (Michiyo Ôkusu) returns to live with Zen. And so, he takes her back.
When they arrive back home in Ōshika village, the village they left 18 years earlier, it is almost time for the annual jishibai (local rural amateur kabuki) performance. This, of course, is what interested me most about the film going in. I *love* kabuki, but have never seen a jishibai performance, and thought that this would be a really neat film to see, including how a town relates to the kabuki, as part of their own local tradition, and seeing some of the behind-the-scenes aspects as the characters prepare for the performance. In any case, at the very least, it would be an opportunity to see some kabuki!
I’m intrigued by the notion of making a movie that features jishibai so strongly. Mort Japanese people I have spoken to have very little interest in kabuki, or, even if they’re open to it, they’ve never seen it and know little about it. What would such an audience think about this film? Would it get them interested in kabuki? (I think not; the film just doesn’t quite have that vibe) Would they see it as dry and boring, inaccessible because it’s too traditional? Or would they relate to the feeling of local pride for village traditions?
In any case, while the kabuki did feature prominently in the film, I couldn’t help but find it somehow somewhat lacking, as compared to my excitement at seeing a film that featured kabuki in it. I don’t quite know why this was. Perhaps the behind-the-scenes aspects destroyed the illusion of the colorful ‘magic’ of the kabuki stage. Seeing all these rural local village characters, who we’ve seen so much of out of makeup/costume, now onstage, it’s easy to see them as ordinary people in blotchy makeup, and difficult to believe them in their kabuki characters, or in the setting of the play. Frequent cut-aways, and the application of a normal movie soundtrack over the kabuki shamisen/taiko/hayashi music, certainly did not help. Plus, of course, that the kabuki aspects, though extensive, were overshadowed by the tragic plot narrative of Takako, and of her relationships with Zen and Osamu.
Still, the film has rekindled my desire to go see some jishibai performances in Japan. They seem most common in Gifu and Nagano, but I’d be particularly eager to see Ise Ondo Koi no Netaba, the play we did last year in Hawaii, as performed in Ise. The Kabuki-za, the lead professional kabuki theatre in Tokyo, was closed and knocked down in 2010; plans are to reopen the reconstructed Kabuki-za in 2013. Next summer is going to be a great time for kabuki.