CH 1995 90'
Described as either a "documentary fiction" or a "fictitious documentary," this unique film starts from the assumption that it is impossible for an outsider to truly enter Japan (a country which especially fascinates Schmid and where his films are especially popular). Schmid instead approaches Japan-through its masks, an"echo-chamber of signs" that is inherently distanced and constantly shifting. The film's central subject is the renowned Kabuki performer Tamasaburo Bando, one of the last and greatest practitioners of the art of the onnagata - i.e., a man playing women's roles. Distinct from drag performers in the West, the onnagata attempts not to imitate the woman but to suggest her essence. The film alternates extended Kabuki performances with documentary accounts of Bando's influences and of the parallel world of the geisha, achieving a complex perspective that Schmid describes as "within, and yet without." With Yajuro Bando, Kai Shishido, Toshiya Nagasawa, Asaji Tsutakiyokomatsu
Martin Rubin, Chicago