Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Akai jinbaori / The Scarlet Cloak (2007 print from Shochiku)

赤い陣羽織 / [Il mantello scarlatto]. JP 1958. D: Satsuo Yamamoto. Based on: da una pièce di Junji Kinoshita. SC: Hajime Takaiwa. Cinematography: Minoru Maeda. AD: Kazuo Kubo. M: Masao Ooki. C: Kanzaburo Nakamura the 17th (Gentazaemon Araki), Kyoko Kagawa (Shino Araki), Yunosuke Ito (Jinbei, il custode del mulino), Ineko Arima (Sen, moglie di Jinbei), Masao Mishima (Uemon), Shobun Inoue (Tota), Jun Tatara (Taneomi), Ton Shimada (Kurosuke). P: Shochiku. [The film was not released in Finland]. 35 mm. Col. 94 min
    This print was struck in 2007 from 35 mm dupe negatives preserved by Shochiku, transferred from the original three-strip Konicolor negatives
    Print from National Film Center, Tokyo per concessione di Shochiku
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Richness and Harmony. Colour Film in Japan (part two)
    English subtitles on the print, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra
    Cinema Jolly, 28 June 2016

Alexander Jacoby, Johan Nordström (Bologna catalog): "This comic jidai-geki (period film), shot in the Japanese colour process Konicolor and boasting both humour and politically charged satire, features the debut film performance of legendary Kabuki actor Kanzaburo Nakamura the 17th (1909–1988), in the lead role as an Edo-period magistrate who falls in love with and tries to seduce the beautiful wife of the local miller during a certain nighttime village festival, when according to custom, so-called yobai (‘night-crawling’, i.e. wife swapping), is legally permissible as long as the festival drum is beating. Ineko Arima, who plays the wife, had been a star of the Takarazuka all-girl theatre troupe and would win cinematic recognition for her work in Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo boshoku (Tokyo Twilight, 1957) and Higanbana (Equinox Flower, 1958), and in Masaki Kobayashi’s Ningen no joken (The Human Condition, 1958–61)."

"Hailed on release by the “Kinema Junpo” reviewer as a treasure of Japanese cinema, the film is based on a stage play by Junji Kinoshita (1914–2006), a leading twentieth-century Japanese playwright as well as a respected translator of Shakespeare’s plays into Japanese. The play was itself inspired by a foreign novel, El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat, 1874), by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón y Ariza (1833–1891), which had also been adapted into a classic ballet by Manuel de Falla. Kinoshita’s other works ranged from plays inspired by traditional folk tales to sociopolitical commentary, including a theatrical response to the Tokyo war crimes trials and a dramatisation of the life of German-born Soviet spy Richard Sorge, executed in Japan in 1944."

"The source material’s comic take on feudal class distinctions was well suited to director Satsuo Yamamoto (1910–1985), a left-wing director long affiliated with the Japanese Communist Party. Many of his films were independently produced, with a didactic sociopolitical focus: among them, Pen itsuwarazu: Boryokugai no machi (Street of Violence, 1950) depicted a crusading journalist’s campaign against organized crime; Shinku chitai (Vacuum Zone, 1952) was a savage indictment of the brutality of the Japanese army; and Taifu sodoki (Trouble about a Typhoon, 1956) was a witty and revealing satire about small-scale political corruption. Even Yamamoto’s more commercial films, made mainly under contract at Daiei, included such socially aware works as Akai mizu (Red Water, 1963), another satire on smalltown politics, and Shiroi kyoto (The Ivory Tower, 1966) an indictment of Japanese medical ethics." – Alexander Jacoby, Johan Nordström

AA: This stylized period farce belongs to the universal tradition of folk tales of the contes drolatiques variety. In this case the plot is directly based on the Spanish novel El sombrero de tres picos, also known as Manuel de Falla's ballet originally called The Magistrate and the Miller's Wife (El corregidor y la molinera), later El sombrero de tres picos (in Finnish: Kolmikolkkahattu). The magistrate wants to share quality time with the miller's beautiful wife, but the tables are turned as the magistrate loses his scarlet cloak, and the miller dressed in it gets to share quality time with the magistrate's wife, instead.

The male characters are such complete buffoons that it is hard to relate to the story from their viewpoint. Instead, the female characters are beautiful and ingenious. They use their charm and wit to survive in potentially offensive situations of oppression and humiliation.

The yobai night is the Japanese contribution to the Spanish novel. The night of celebration starts with a miracle play. In the darkness of the night men and women can express their desires for strangers freely, and the sound of a huge drum is a signal to go all the way. The extended drumming is a symbol for intercourse.

There is an affinity in the tale also with Gogol's The Overcoat and Zuckmayer's The Captain of Köpenick. The community is in such awe of the scarlet cloak that they fail to recognize that the person inside has been switched.

To sum up, this is a strong story with fine female performances, but the approach to the farce seems clumsy and heavy-handed to me.

A fine job of recreating the Konicolor palette. The print is soft or the projection was out of focus.

No comments: