Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tsukigata Hanpeita (1925) [with benshi soundtrack]

JP 1925. D: Teinosuke Kinugasa. Story: Rifu Yukitomo. SC: Reiichi Fukuma. DP: Yasukichi Miyazaki. C: Shojiro Sawada (Tsukigata Hanpeita), Zenichiro Kito (Kujiro Fujioka), Tadashi Torii (Kozo Okazaki), Seiji Hara (Tatsuma Hayase), Yoshitaro Minami (Komiyama), Ichiro Sato (Hagyu), Kichijiro Ueda Kyunoshin Okudaira), Wakanosuke Nakamura (Dozo Nakama), Tetsu Nakai (Kunishige Ichimonji), Ken Nozoe (Sobei Ogiya), Sanae Futaba (Utagiku), Utako Haruno (Umewaka), Kiyoko Hisamatsu (Somehachi / Kyoba). PC: Rengou Eiga Geijutsuka Kyokai (Tojiin). 35 mm. 13’ at 24 fps. B&w. Versione giapponese / Japanese version. From: National Film Center – The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Sunday 24 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in English.

Alexander Jacoby & Johan Nordström: "When he made this film, Teinosuke Kinugasa was at a relatively early stage in his directorial career (he had originally entered cinema as an onnagata, ie, an actor specialising in female roles). He would go on to make his avant-garde masterpiece, Kurutta ichipeji (A Page of Madness, 1926), the following year. Tsukigata Hanpeita was the first film produced by a short-lived Nara based film production company, Rengou Eiga Geijutsu Kyoukai (Associated Film Artists). The company was launched by the celebrated author Sanjugo Naoki in 1925, only to fold in 1927."

"The popular character of Tsukigata Hanpeita, an opponent of the Tokugawa Shogunate which governed Japan up to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, originated in a 1919 kabuki play, which established his characteristic hairline and the circular moon emblem that marks his costume. He is based on a combination of the liberal thinker and statesman Ryoma Sakamoto (1836-1867) and his childhood friend Takeshi Hanpeita (1829-1865), a master swordsman whose interest in Western culture is believed to have sparked Ryoma’s later political thinking. The name ‘Tsukigata’ probably derives from a third historical figure, Senzo Tsukigata, another opponent of the Tokugawa regime. The character of Tsukigata shares a political outlook with these real-life models, but was also given distinct character traits, in particular a perhaps excessive fondness for wine and women."

"The story of Tsukigata Hanpeita was to be filmed numerous times from the silent era well into the postwar years; other prewar versions include Daisuke Ito’s for Nikkatsu in 1933, featuring his regular star Denjiro Okochi, while Kinugasa himself was to remake it in 1956. This 1925 version, starring Shojiro Sawada (nicknamed ‘Sawasho’), an actor who had made his name with the Shinkokugeki theatre troupe, is the earliest version known to survive, albeit in condensed form. Sawada’s performance became known for its startlingly realistic and emotional traits as well as for intense, explosive swordplay. The film became a benchmark against which later versions would be measured." - Alexander Jacoby & Johan Nordström

AA: The sound is the dominant source of artistic value in this presentation of this movie. The benshi interpretation is fascinating with beautiful music and song passages.

The visual quality is terrible in this print that has been restored from a Pathé Baby home viewing source.

The speed is natural. Visual strengths include the visit to the courtesan Umematsu, the graceful No dance, the striking fight choreography, and the finale: the hero writes his last will with his blood.

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