Yukinojo Nakamura (Hasegawa) is one of Japan's premier Kabuki onnagata (a male actor who plays female roles). One night, during a performance in a small town, he spots three audience members who were responsible for the deaths of his parents many years ago. The stunned actor quickly regains his composure and finishes the performance, but his thoughts have already turned to payback. He begins by seducing Namiji (Wakao), one of the criminal's daughters, but his plans grow increasingly elaborate and devilish as he continues to pursue revenge.
This brilliant, bizarre entry from world-class filmmaker Ichikawa ("Fires on the Plain") draws much of its look and feel from the ritualized world of Kabuki theater; the result is a marriage of cinema and stagecraft traditions that's unlike any film you've ever seen. Hasegawa, who doubles as the feminine actor Yukinojo and the masculine thief Yamitaro, is compelling in either persona. Lushly photographed by Setsuo Kobayashi and featuring a distinctive jazz score, this fascinating film takes a lot of risks on its winding path to "Revenge," but they all pay dividends.