Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chokon / [An Unforgettable Grudge], 2011 digital restoration of the surviving one reel fragment, Ichiro Kataoka benshi performance

National Film Center, Tokyo
 CHOKON [Un rancore indelebile / An Unforgettable Grudge] (Nikkatsu Taishogun, JP 1926) (fragment) D, SC, story: Daisuke Ito; DP: Rokuzo Watarai; C: Denjiro Okochi (Kazuma Iki), Yuzuru Kume (Tsugio Iki), Utagoro Onoue (Sozaemon Numata), Yayoi Kawakami (Yukie), Momonosuke Ichikawa (Tomigoro); orig. l: 6 rl.; 35 mm, 875 ft, 15' (16 fps), col. (tinted); print source: National Film Center, Tokyo. Digitally restored 2010. Japanese intertitles, with English subtitles. / Benshi commentary: Ichiro Kataoka; M: John Sweeney. Viewed at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in Italian, 10 Oct 2013

Johan Nordström: "This was the first film made by Daisuke Ito after moving to the production company Nikkatsu, and is also noteworthy as his first collaboration with actor Denjiro Okochi. Set in the late Edo period, Chokon depicts the tragic lives of two brothers, Kazuma and Tsugio Iki, who both fall in love with the same girl, Yukie; the title is a word borrowed from the Chinese, meaning “the grudge that one cannot forget”. When Kazuma’s younger brother Tsugio loses his sight as a result of a sword fight, Yukie nurses Tsugio back to health and eventually falls in love with him. Having lost all that is dear to him, Kazuma gets into a desperate fight, and after dispatching countless opponents is finally slain."

"The film originally consisted of 6 reels; the surviving one-reel fragment centres on the climatic fight from the end of the film, which originally stretched over 3 reels (more than 30 minutes). In this scene, as Hiroshi Komatsu has noted, director Daisuke Ito “displays virtually every element of the impressionist cinema: fast-moving camera, unusual camera angles, rapid cutting, double exposure, etc.”."

"Daisuke Ito (1898-1981) was one of the most celebrated and influential directors of jidai-geki (period films). He directed nearly a hundred films, and has often been called by critics and movie fans in Japan “the father of jidai-geki”. Although most of his silent films are lost, the examples that have survived (only one in its entirety, as well as certain longer fragments) reveal his energetic and flamboyant style, described by David Bordwell as “calligraphic”, filled with fast action, rapid montage, and flamboyant camera movement. He often portrayed his heroes as nihilistic drifters and lonely social outcasts, and imbued much of his work with a social consciousness often present in the jidai-geki of the 1920s and early 1930s."

"Shown in the Giornate’s 2001 retrospective “Light from the East: Japanese Silent Cinema, 1898-1935”, the film now appears in a new print, digitally restored and tinted by the National Film Center in 2010." Johan Nordström

AA: One of the wildest action films of all times. I saw this stunning fragment in 2001. It is a breathtaking amok run of the fearless Kazuma, facing an overwhelming enemy alone, fighting with swords and huge wooden shields, being tripped by a cord and getting all tied up. Daisuke Ito has a strong sense of mise-en-scène, of epic crowd movements, and of the rhythm of the action.

Now restored and equipped with an equivalent to tinting, and Ichiro Kataoka and the musicians making the furious narrative even more furious with their live sound world.

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