Written Assignments

Kabuki and Ran


Web Resources for This Assignment

Kabuki
Read "What is Kabuki?" in order to understand the basic performance traditions and thematics of kabuki. You may also wish to read around in the glossary.

Japanese Performance   All film is performance art and all performance art is informed by the world view of a culture. Japanese performance art is largely influenced by traditions laid down first in the medieval No theater and particularly the Kabuki theater of Tokugawa Japan. Although considered low class and salacious, Kabuki theater has defined Japanese performance art both in presentation and content in the modern world. The concerns that animate Japanese performance arts, from theater to film to animation, are the same concerns that were defined in the development of Kabuki.
   The purpose of this exercise is for you to try to view the film, Ran , in the same way a Japanese would. In order to do this, you must view the performance in the light of Japanese performance traditions, which in this case is Kabuki theater. Or, you must view the film in the light of the thematics of Japanese performance traditions—again, in this case, Kabuki theater. In order to learn about Kabuki performance and the thematics of Kabuki theater, read "What is Kabuki?" in the module, Kabuki.


The Assignment   I want you to choose one scene or one issue from the film that we did not cover in class and explain it in the light of Kabuki performance traditions. Your essay should focus on one of two aspects of Kabuki theater: performance traditions or the thematics of Kabuki theater. If you deal with performance traditions, your essay will attempt to demonstrate how the film uses Kabuki style acting, make-up, gestures (kata ), mime, or music to convey meaning. The best essays will focus on the acting styles and gestures. You can derive your information from the "What is Kabuki" chapter in the Kabuki module. If you concentrate on the thematics of Kabuki, I want you to rely on the giri / ninjo dichotomy and, in particular, the nature and role of violence in Kabuki (discussed in the last section of the What is Kabuki? chapter). No matter what perspective you take (performance traditions or thematics), I want you to draw some conclusions from your comparison of Kabuki to Ran as to what the filmmaker is trying to accomplish. What, in the end, is the film about? (If you want a real challenge, then explain the death of Sué or the final image of Tsurumane on the precipice).


Discussion   Make sure that your answer also responds to previous work. I want you to add to or disagree with a previous answer so that our understanding of the film accumulates as more of you contribute to the discussion.


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