Sunday, November 18, 2012

All About Setsuko Hara

Since last year, Shincho 45+, the Japanese magazine catering to the conservative readership, ran Setsuko Hara retrospective, not only once, but twice. A couple of articles on the actress were featured, but their marketing ploy for both occasions was the DVD packaged with the magazine, very rare silent films never released before (and of course, starring Setsuko Hara). I fell for the ploy on both occasions. Yet, Shinchosha decided to release another publication, this time whole book dedicated to Setsuko Hara, with another rare, never-released film on DVD. I decided to fall for their ploy again.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nikkatsu 100: A Century of Japanese Cinema

The letter “Katsu (活)” means “kinetic” as in Kinematograph and was the recurring Kanji character in vocabulary of Japanese cinema culture. As Katsudo-shasin (活動写真) is the almost literal translation of Kinematograph, many film studios had the letter “Katsu(活)” in their brand name. Tenkatsu (天活) was one of the earliest cinema studios, Tennnenn-shoku Katsudo-shasin Kabusikikaisha (天然色活動写真株式会社, 1914 - 1919), specialized in hand-painted color features. Kokusai-Katsuei (国際活映, 1919 - 1925), dubbed as Kokkatsu (国活), inherited Tenkatsu in 1919, while Taisho-Katsuei (大正活映, 1920 - 1927) or Tai-Katsu (大活) was another studio with artistic flavor. While these studios were all short-lived, spanning less than a decade, one company with “Katsu (活)” in its name was still (though barely) alive. Nikkatsu (日活), originally named Nihon-Katsudo-Shasin-Kabusikikaisha (日本活動写真株式会社), is the hallmark of Japanese cinema along with Shochiku and Toho studios. It was formed in 1912, merging four major studios at the time. Up until seventies, Nikkatsu was the most influential, certainly popular, though not always profitable, film studio in Japan. Its filmography represents the best and worst of Japanese cinema. As “Katsu” means “kinetic”, Nikkatsu was perpetually in motion, from breathtaking chases in “Chuji Tabinikki” to almost absurd gun-slinging in “Kenju-burai-cho” series, from Matsugoro Onoe in “Goketsu Jiraiya” to Yujiro Ishihara in “Crazed Fruits”. On the occasion of the centennial celebration, the National Film Center in Tokyo is running the Nikkatsu retrospective in this fall. 
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