Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Macbeth - Japanese Style

Out, damned spot! Out I say!

I am a fan of Macbeth. I'm not in a theater, so it is perfectly fine for me to say that word here.

And so, thanks to Android TV, I was able to finally watch the Kurosawa Akira (surname first) directed movie: Kumonosu-jō (蜘蛛巣城) which means "Spider Web Castle" - but outside of Japan, it is best known as Throne of Blood, a Japanese take on William Shakespeare's The Tragedy Of Macbeth.

Filmed in 1957, the black and white film is a tour de force masterpiece by Kurasawa - but if you've ever heard of Kurosawa, you already knew that. 

Knowing that the samurai drama was supposed to be a version of Macbeth, I eagerly awaited the Lady Macbeth scene where she tries to wash away the treason and murders from her hands... and wow... I was not disappointed. 

Seeing the scene where the Japanese lord's wife goes mad with what she has helped wrought by trying to wash her imagined blood-stained hands stinking with blood in an empty bowl was pure horror. 

Lady Washizu Asaji (surname first) - aka Lady Macbeth - was played by actress Yamada Isuzu (surname first). When we meet her, thanks to the white-face makeup, and shaved eyebrows, and the new eyebrows painted in high on the forehead in the fashion style of feudal Japan, we see a calm, even-keeled wife suggest a treasonous plan to fulfill the prophecy of a demon spirit (the Three Witches in Macbeth).

Her mouth barely opens, her face always calm and blank... and then to see her as the madness takes hold is shocking.

We see her blackened teeth (also a fashion statement of feudal Japanese times) - which when presented against the whiteness of her facial make-up and those  - forgive me - horrible painted on eyebrows, as her eyes appear wide and dark with pain and mental anguish, as she sees herself failing to wash away the damn blood stains from her hands... it's just creepy, horrible and exciting.

I kept expecting the forest demon to pop out of her - then again, she had her own internal demons to worry about.

Macbeth - aka Washizu Taketoki (surname first) was played by famed Japanese actor Mifune Toshiro... apparently the only actor Japan has not fitted into a giant rubber lizard suit.
Japan's only samurai actor Mifune Toshiro as Macbeth/Washizu Taketoki
Seriously... if you are doing a samurai drama, then Mifune is the only actor who can play the lead role.

Although he died nearly 20 years ago, Mifune is still identified as THE samurai actor, and his wild-eyed, guffawing acting is, as always spectacular.

I won't give it away, except to say that the arrows shot, were real... hence the real face of fear on Mifune's face.

But really... despite the roles and the actors, and the title of the Shakespeare play, Lady Macbeth/Lady Washizu Asaji is the star... as she moves the plot with all of her plotting... the real steel behind the katana sword.

By the way... the way the actors look in the movie... it is based on the typical masks worn in Noh theater.

Anyhow... I really just wanted to say... if you get the chance to watch Throne of Blood, do so. It's not gross with unnecessary blood and gore (though you may cry if you want to), and it may seem slow in places with too much unnecessary horseback riding through the fog - but it's not.

Like in one of William Shakespeare's best plays, everything happens for a reason - and as long as you know that, you'll reason out for yourself what Kurosawa had in mind when he directed the scene.

Somewhere wondering if I should dig out my Japanese kyudo bow and arrows,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Lesley Gore sang It's My Party (I'll Cry If I Want To). She died last year. Despite that, it beats me where the hell in my mind that lyric popped up from to become part of this blog.
PPS: As mentioned early in this blog: In theater, actors will not mention the Shakespeare title "Macbeth" out loud fearing the play is cursed. It is instead referred to as "that Scottish play". Ah yes... the play's the thing. Different play. Different meaning.

No comments:

Post a Comment