Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Kurotegumi Sukeroku

(The film was not released in Finland). JP 1929. PC: Shochiku Shimokamo Studio. D: Taizo Fuyushima, Eiji Furuno; DP: Kohei Sugiyama; CAST: Chojiro Hayashi (Kurotegumi Sukeroku), Kokichi Takada (Denji), Kinuko Wakamizu (Agemaki-dayu), Ryutaro Nakane (Kinokuniya Bunzaemon), Tetsu Tsuboi (Torii Shinzaemon); lg. or./orig. l. (35mm): 966 m; A restored 35mm blow-up from 16mm to 35mm by the Film Preservation Society, Tokyo, (incomplete), 314 m /16 fps/ 16 min; from: The Museum of Kyoto. E-subtitles in English + Italian, grand piano: Mie Yanashita. Presenta Mariko Goda. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 6 Oct 2009. - From the GCM Catalogue: "The legendary Japanese film star Kazuo Hasegawa plays the leading role in this story as Sukeroku, a well-known hero in Kabuki. The film was released in 1929, the third year after Hasegawa’s debut under his early screen name Chojiro Hayashi.
This is quite a valuable discovery because most of Hasegawa’s films with the Shochiku Company have been lost. The young Hasegawa’s brilliant charisma is fully captured by the camerawork of Kohei Sugiyama, who is also known for his work with such directors as Teinosuke Kinugasa and Kenji Mizoguchi.
Before World War II, it was common in Japan to sell popular feature films for home projection after re-editing and reprinting them to a shorter and smaller format like 16mm or 9.5mm. The recently discovered Kurotegumi Sukeroku is such a condensed version on 16mm, sold under the “Marvel Graph” label. “Marvel Graph” was a brand name for the 16mm digest film series of Jujiya Gakkiten, a musical instrument company in Tokyo, which was licensed by major production companies like Shochiku and Makino to produce digest versions of their feature films. This Marvel Graph version survived the war, and has been kept in good condition by a family along with their home movies.
Since 2005 the Film Preservation Society (FPS) in Tokyo has undertaken its “Adopt-a-Film” project to discover long-lost Japanese silent films and look for donors to restore them on 35mm and screen them, as well as preserve them for the future. FPS issued a call for donations for Kurotegumi Sukeroku, its fifth “Adopt-a-Film” project, in 2007. The restoration was finished in January 2009, with the kind assistance of actress Kiyo Hasegawa, the daughter of the film’s star.
SYNOPSIS: Shinzaemon has been Sukeroku’s enemy ever since Sukeroku fought and defeated gangs from Shinzaemon’s group at a Kabuki theatre over Agemaki from Miuraya. Sukeroku swears that he will never draw his sword until he finds his family’s treasured blade, Tomokirimaru, so he gets insulted often by Shinzaemon’s men. Bunzaemon redeems Agemaki for Sukeroku ahead of Shinzaemon, but Sukeroku, ever the gentleman, does not accept. When Shinzaemon snatches Agemaki, it is found that he has Tomokirimaru. Sukeroku overcomes Shinzaemon in a once-in-a-lifetime fight, and saves Agemaki – Mariko Goda". - The visual quality of the print is probably as good as it gets in a blow-up from 16mm. - There is one third left of the original jidai-geki produced by Shochiku. - The final furious swordfight is breathtaking.

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