The 9th International Silent Film Festival continues to amaze new audiences with the magic of cinema. This year’s entries from Japan come with a set of four short films, all astoundingly magnificent in its form, perspectives and innovation.
Mansaki Itami’s PEERLESS PATRIOT (1932) tells the story of Isenokami, a master swordsman and his impostor. It is revealed that the impostor is actually stronger than the real Ise. After his first defeat, Isenokami trains himself and tries to beat the fake impostor.
When Isenokami gets defeated the second time by his impostor, he mumbles, “he who is right lost agains he who is not right. To which his impostor replies, “It is not the right one who wins. He who wins is right.” Here, Itami agues the relativity of truth and identity; that such can be stolen as power crawls in from the back window.
PEERLESS PATRIOT is a comedy that tackles our pathetic chase for honor. With strong performances by its lead actors Chiezo Katoka, Minoru Takase and Isuzu Yamada, and amazing cinematography, this short film by Itami triumphs as it attacks cultural absudities, and the tragedy of truths.
FIGHTING FRIENDS (1929) by Yasujiro Ozu is an enjoyable comedy about two friends who fall in love with a stunningly beautiful young woman. As they develop their interests, they realise that they are just simply chasing their own tails.
Atushi Watanabe and Hisao Yoshitani, as the two friends, are extremely enjoyable to watch on screen. Their innocent jovialities and mindless perkiness transcend generations of slap stick humor and still command, even, the modern crowd for a hearty laugh and a teary sigh. In FIGHTING FRIENDS, Ozu connects the simplicity of everyday life and friendship through a powerful narrative that’s quite hard to forget.
The boy Tetsubo gets kidnapped in Yasujiro Ozu’s A STRAIGHTFORWARD BOY (1929). As Bunkichi, the kidnapper, brings the boy to his Boss he realises how curiously pushy Tetsubo is. See, Tetsubo has this thing for sweets and candies and toys. Unable to keep him under his control, he decides to leave him with Boss, who refuses to take him.
This another entry by Ozu is a fine treat as it delivers a delightful slap stick comedy about an unlikely tragedy where power comes from the meek and innocent. From the 2015 perspective, STRAIGHTFORWARD doesn’t offer something new, but in its innovation and great performances by lead actors Tastsuo Saito, Tomio Aoki and Takeshi Sakamoto, STRAIGHTFOWARD BOY offers an unquestionably engaging 25 minute short film.
A BUDDHIST MASS FOR GOEMON ISHIKAWA (1930) by Torajiro Saito is another magical slap stick comedy, and is quite a fitting finale for Japan’s entry this year.
Goro and Sayoko have fallen in love, but Sayoko’s father refuses Goro for a son-in-law. As a matter of fact, he will do everything to stand between him and his daughter, even to the point of killing Goro. When, during one night, he finds out that two young lovers will elope, he tracks Goro and beats him to death. But Goro’s love for Sayoko transcends even death. He returns from the other world as a ghost and haunts the father and pursues his Sayoko.
This film by Saito explores Japanese culture and examines it to its core through a hypothetical narrative about the after-life, revenge and love. With it is a reflection, that in spite one’s own culture, traditions and rituals, self-interest and greed overcome.
Indie-jazz-pop, HIDDEN NIKKI accompanies all the shorts with amazing synchrony and considerable empathy for the scenes and it’s characters. It is amazing to hear live music, bouncing and creating a new feel for a classic short. HIDDEN NIKKI’s performance makes the viewing experience more emotional and wonderfully compelling. I love them na!
The 9th Silent Film Festival runs until Sunday.
Go watch a silent film, and hear the difference.