An animated rendition of an early classic of Japanese literature dating to the 11th century, THE TALE OF GENJI effectively condenses the lengthy chronicle of a hedonistic prince's love affairs in Heian-era Japan. Adopting an austere but elegant visual style and a deliberate pace, this film
marks a distinct departure from the excess and overwrought tone of most modern anime.
In tenth-century Japan, Lord Genji, the Emperor's second prince, has affairs with a number of prominent ladies in the court including the Emperor's new wife Fujitsubo, Genji's own stepmother. Fujitsubo gives birth to a boy, believed to be Genji's, soon after Genji's long-suffering wife Aoi dies
after also giving birth to a boy. Afterwards, Genji visits a hermitage and gets permission to adopt the young princess, Murasaki, whose parents have died. A friend suggests Genji's goal is to raise the girl to be his mistress.
One by one, over the years, Genji's loves leave the region, die, or learn to reject Genji's advances. Genji falls out of favor with the court after the Emperor dies and the first prince ascends to the throne. Eventually, the only woman left who still loves Genji is Murasaki, now a teenager. When
he is exiled to a seacoast town, Genji asks Murasaki to handle his estate and look after his son by Aoi. She begs to go with him and the two make love. He promises to return for her.
GENJI is the closest Japanese animation has come in recent years to the look and feel of traditional Japanese art. Loving attention is paid to architectural detail, as seen in the various houses and mansions, and ornamental detail, and in the gorgeous designs on the folding screens, curtains,
fans, and kimonos.
In order to condense a lifetime of hedonism and adultery (the original work has 41 chapters) into a single feature, the film is structured as a series of short scenes with fairly quick transitions. This causes confusion, since so many of the characters look alike and are not always easily
identified. Genji himself is an exact look-alike of Lady Rokujo, one of his lovers. A familiarity with the book will be of enormous help to viewers in sorting out the various characters.
The film has a dreamlike tone, largely because the events are filtered through Genji's solipsistic consciousness and are frequently intercut with his memories and dreams. The classical, almost highbrow, visual style represents a significant departure from recent Japanese animation styles and will
reward patient viewers.(Nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1987
- Rating: NR
- Review: An animated rendition of an early classic of Japanese literature dating to the 11th century, THE TALE OF GENJI effectively condenses the lengthy chronicle of a hedonistic prince's love affairs in Heian-era Japan. Adopting an austere but elegant visual styl… (more)