Thursday, October 02, 2008
A Date With Lady Kaede
Autumn is closing in, and with it comes evenings snuggled up with the cat to watch movies. I saw Ran the other night. I saw it years ago in the IFC and thought it was great, but for some reason I'd never gotten it out on DVD, although I love historical epics.
I couldn't remember if it was Ran or Throne of Blood that contained one of my Favourite Scenes Ever, in which a scheming woman falls weeping to the feet of a man in order to get him to do something awful and while he looks away, stricken, she takes the opportunity to crush a moth on the floor in the folds of her kimono. Well, it's Ran, and the woman in Lady Kaede.
Aah, Lady Kaede, how could I forget you? Your absolute stillness and grace, your glacial beauty, your pathological hatred of the Ichimonji clan. She really is a great character, the sibilant whip-wheep sound of her silk robes is nearly as terrifying as Asami's 'ichi ichi ichi' in Audition.
But having watched the film with its audio commentaries (Film Studies professor and a mate of Kurosawa's) I find I object to the characterisation of her as a great schemer. Kaede does work towards the destruction of the Ichimonji but she hardly needs to plot their downfall. It is Hidetora who puts events in motion, all it takes for Kaede is to direct those events just a little, vanity, greed and ambition of Hidetora and his sons do the rest for her. Where Kaede's real skill lies is in her ability to exploit her moment. When Jiro plots the death of his brother with his vassals they laugh at the easy pickings until Jiro says 'His wife, the Lady Kaede, is a different matter' and then they all go silent.
A different matter indeed.