Sunday, June 26, 2016

Senninbari / [The Thousand-Stitch Belt] (2015 digital restoration in 4K by National Film Center)

千人針 / [La cintura dai mille punti]. JP 1937. D: Genjiro Saegusa. SC: Kesshu Tsukuda. Cinematography: Sukeshige Urushiyama. C: Matsunosuke Fukui (Shotaro Saeki), Kuni Sugiura (la madre), Hoshiko Tachibana (Oyoshi, la fidanzata), Fumio Wakamatsu (Takasugi), Shizuko Takazawa (Tokiko, la moglie), Fumiyo Kyomachi (Mieko, la sorella). PC: Dainihon Tennenshoku Eiga Seisakujo (Greater Japan Natural Color Productions). DCP. Col. 19 min
    2015 digital restoration in 4K by National Film Center
    Music selections include "Serenata" by Toselli and "Moldau" by Smetana.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
    Richness and Harmony. Colour Film in Japan (part two)
    Introduce Alexander Jacoby, Johan Nordström and Hisashi Okajima
    English subtitles on DCP by Mia Isozaki, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti Londra.
    Cinema Jolly, 26 June 2016

Alexander Jacoby, Johan Nordström (Bologna catalog): "This early Japanese colour film, rediscovered in an incomplete print at Moscow’s Gosfilmofond archive, focuses on a boatman whose relationships with his mother and fiancee are disrupted when he is conscripted to fight in China. The title comes from the metre-long belt composed of a thousand stitches which the hero’s grandmother begins to prepare for him. The film is a memento of bellicose times, made in the year when Japan, which had already annexed Manchuria, launched a full-scale war with China."

"Senninbari was the third film produced by the production company Dai Nihon Tennenshoku Eiga Seisakujo (Greater Japan Natural Color Productions), a pioneer of colour cinema in Japan. It is the oldest surviving Japanese colour talkie, made using a two-colour system. Dai Nihon Tennenshoku Eiga Seisakujo was the first production company to adopt the Multicolor process, known as ‘Shanghai color’ at the time. On the film’s release, the “Kinema Junpo” reviewer praised the improvement in the process by comparison with the studio’s first film, Tsukigata Hanpeita (Seika Shiba, 1937), but suggested that the work was lacking in dramatic terms. Director Genjiro Saegusa (b. 1900), is today little-known even in Japan. A contemporary at Nikkatsu of Kenji Mizoguchi, he worked prolifically through the silent era and remained active into the 1950s. His date of death is unknown. David Bordwell speaks of the echoes of French impressionist cinema and Soviet-style montage in his Gunshin Tachibana chusa (Lieutenant Colonel Tachibana, 1926), while his stylish rediscovered action film, Tokkyu sanbyaku mairu (Special Express: 300 Miles, 1928) was well received at screenings in Italy and Germany in recent years."

"It did not prove possible to ship the original material, a nitrate color positive held at Gosfilmofond, to Japan, so a 4K version was produced in Russia and used as the basis for a new method of digital restoration conducted in collaboration with the production companies, IMAGICA Corp and IMAGICA West Corp. By analyzing the data resulting from photochemical simulations at IMAGICA West, it was possible to determine the colour range that the two-colour system could not reproduce, keep that range from being picked up in colour grading, and thereby retrieve the colour of Senninbari."
– Alexander Jacoby, Johan Nordström

AA: A militaristic film, imperialist propaganda in the service of the Japanese invasion to China, Senninbari also belongs to the context of WWII movies produced by the Axis Powers, which also formed the Anti-Comintern Pact.

There are heroic marches and rousing displays of the cavalry, the infantry and the artillery in preparation of a holy war. There is also a sports contest, no doubt in preparation of the war, as well. There is so much music and singing that the film can be partly seen as belonging to the genre of the musical.

The film is very emotional as the old mother says goodbye to her son about to leave to the battlefront tomorrow. She has stiched him a thousand stitch belt, each stitch containing her best wishes. "Now I can die without regrets". "Banzai!" There is a strange (under?)current of self-destructiveness in this movie, similar to German militaristic films of the period.

A fine job of restoration from challenging source materials with many joins. The recreation of the special two-colour Multicolor / Shanghai Color palette looks believably authentic.

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