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A Tragic Obsession in 12th-Century Japan,
This review is from: Gate of Hell [VHS] (VHS Tape)
In 1953, Teinosuke Kinugasa (1896-1982) directed and co-adapted the historical play entitled "Jigokumon" (English transliteration of the Japanese title), which was written by Kan Kikuchi (1888-1948). The film's name (the same as the play) translates into English as "Gate of Hell", and was released theatrically in the U.S. in 1954. The story takes place in 12th-century Japan during the Heian period and at the start of a revolt. During the confusion and fear running rampant through the royal palace in Kyoto, a lady of the court, Lady Kesa (Machiko Kyō), is rescued by a soldier named Moritoh (Kazuo Hasegawa, 1908-1984). After the revolt fails, Moritoh is told that he can have anything that he wants, and what he wants is Lady Kesa to be his wife. He is quickly told, however, that she is already married to Wataru Watanabe (Isao Yamagata, 1915-1996). Rather than seek something different, Moritoh becomes dangerously obsessed with Lady Kesa.
Filmed in beautiful & vibrant color (probably one of the first color films from Japan), the cinematography in "Gate of Hell" is exquisite. The story is by no means dated, though it does become somewhat predictable. Still, it is both compelling and engaging and the acting is superb, especially Machiko Kyō. Memorable scenes in the film include the confusion at the royal palace, Laky Kesa hiding from traitorous soldiers, Moritoh meeting Lady Kesa and her aunt after the revolt, Moritoh given the choice of his heart's desire, the horse races, Moritoh at the home of Lady Kesa's aunt, and the ending scenes. The makeup used on Moritoh could have been better.
The film won several awards including an Oscar for Best Costume Design, an Honorary Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the prestigious Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in France. Overall, I rate "Gate of Hell" with 4 out of 5 stars. Hopefully, the film will be fully restored and released on DVD one day. I highly recommend the film.