The opening narration of Ozu's single documentary/essay, Kagamijishi, characterizes its subject, the legendary kabuki performer Kikugorô Onoe VI, with the following: "His corpulence was a great aide to playing young, ingenuous girls with generous curves." / The film opens with an abstract of kabuki vs. nô, then proceeds to detail in brief some of the actor's famous parts to date (Ozu cuts between stills of the performer and black-and-white presentations of paintings which detail the various roles), in the process glossing the history of the early 20th-century Japanese stage / From there we move on to contemporaneous footage shot by the filmmaker of the "lion dance" (one of many lion dances in the annals of kabuki), the Kagamijishi as it's called — and which I wouldn't know how to translate that well; maybe something like "the little lion with the concussive head" / I do know I've never seen such vigor on the screen / I dreamt of this film at the top of an intermediate slope while skiing at age 14 / Later I dreamt I was trying to explain Budd Boetticher to Paul Krugman / What is the distance of The Triumph of the Will from kabuki? / Life is the sadness of gesture / With kabuki, etc., you must know the story before you attend the performance / Every auteur-movie about theater is superb / Each one is at once more inviting to a popular audience than most of the other films in the directors' oeuvres while displaying glimmers, as by revealing the flip-side of a fan in quick snaps, the most obscure technique / Constantly Kagamijishi exemplifies mise-en-scène / The tree-decor whacked by the lion's mane shall sway / The dynamism of a late-night talk-show set / The curtain drops, one is speechless and thoughtless / At the close of what is possibly the most serious of all the movies by Yasujirô Ozu
Previous pieces on Ozu at Cinemasparagus:
Friends Fighting Japanese-Style
A Picture-Book for Grown-Ups: I Was Born, But...
Where Have the Dreams of Youth All Gone?
A Tale of Floating Weeds