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Ahahi: Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuki ac

PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 7:33 pm
by silentfilm
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/cool_japan/movies/AJ201510150006

Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuki actor Matsunosuke found in Kyoto
October 15, 2015

By TOMOYOSHI KUBO/ Staff Writer

KYOTO--A long-lost film of "Chushingura"--the term used for representations of the 47 Ronin story--starring Kabuki actor Onoe Matsunosuke (1875-1926) has been unearthed in the old capital of Japan.

"Medama no Matchan" (Eyeballs Matsu) is the affectionate nickname given to the legendary actor. He was said to have appeared in more than a thousand films and is referred to as Japan's first movie star. But because only about 10 of his films have been confirmed to exist, the latest discovery was an extremely rare occurrence.

The classic film will be screened during the Kyoto International Film and Art Festival to be held Oct. 15-18 to commemorate the 140th anniversary of Matsunosuke's birth.

The recently discovered film is a complete version of a 9.5-mm silent Pathe Baby edition of Nikkatsu Corp.'s "Jitsuroku Chushingura" (The true record of Chushingura) produced in 1926, which was directed by Tomiyasu Ikeda. The film consists of four reels running at about 66 minutes and was re-edited for commercial sales for home use.

The movie was discovered by Osaka University of Arts professor Yoneo Ota. He picked it out from among a collection of films donated by a person in Kumamoto Prefecture to the Toy Film Museum in Kyoto's Nakagyo Ward, which collects old film prints and projectors. Ota serves as director of the museum.

Because film prints at the time were fragile, many were lost after being discarded or were destroyed in fires. Only a small portion still exist today.

The story of "Chushingura" is one of the most familiar tales of revenge in Japan. It begins in the Matsunoroka (Pine Corridor) of Edo Castle. It is March 1701 and the young lord of the Ako Domain, Asano Takuminokami, pulls his sword on Kira Kozukenosuke, an official of the shogunate, and injures him. Takuminokami is ordered to immediately commit "seppuku" ritual suicide.

Takuminokami's retainers then became "ronin," wandering samurai without a lord. After laying low for a time, Oishi Kuranosuke leads 46 of these warriors in a raid on the Kira residence. The tale ends with the ronin committing seppuku after slaying Kozukenosuke.

The other Matsunosuke-starring "Chushingura" that remains today is a version edited into a single film from several movies and directed by Shozo Makino, a pioneer of Japanese cinema, between 1910-1912. But the recently discovered version is one of Matsunosuke's last starring roles.

A fragment of the film, which is a Pathe Baby edition that runs for about 20 minutes, is stored at the Kyoto National Museum. But the latest discovery was a complete version that includes the Matsunoroka incident at Edo Castle, in addition to the scene when Oishi, played by Matsunosuke, leads the raid on the Kira mansion on a snowy night.

"It was groundbreaking to find memorable scenes that had been considered lost," professor Ota said. "Matsunosuke's films are often described as old-fashioned, but the film also shows that he embraced technological innovation such as the use of more deluxe sets, making this discovery one that refurbishes his image."

On Sept. 12, which was the 140th anniversary of Matsunosuke's birth, the first reel of the film as well as other footage were shown at the Toy Film Museum. The whole film will be showcased Oct. 18 with narration provided by a "katsuben," or silent film narrator, at the Oe Nohgakudo hall in Kyoto's Nakagyo Ward. It will be accompanied by "Kaminari-mon Taika: Chizome no Matoi" (The great fire at Kaminari-mon gate: Bloodstained flag), which was also found recently.

Born in Okayama, Matsunosuke was initially an uncelebrated actor in a traveling Kabuki troupe. He was discovered by Makino and made his film debut in 1909. He became popular for his "mie" pose, when the eyes are wide open and the body frozen in important scenes.

When he died at age 50, it is said that about 200,000 people attended the funeral procession.

For more information about the special screening, visit the official website of the Toy Film Museum at (http://toyfilm-museum.jp/).
By TOMOYOSHI KUBO/ Staff Writer

Re: Ahahi: Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuk

PostPosted: Thu Oct 15, 2015 10:48 pm
by oldposterho
Now this I would like to see. One of my favorite stories of all time. Let's hope they do a transfer to digital.

Very exciting news.

Re: Ahahi: Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuk

PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2015 9:25 am
by Mike Gebert
Supposedly they make a version of this like every 2 or 3 years in Japan... only the 40s Mizoguchi one and the early 60s Chushingura are known in the west. I wonder how many exist at this point?

Re: Ahahi: Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuk

PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2015 10:29 am
by boblipton
There's one that played at MOMA a few months ago from the early 1930s. Unfortunately, I missed it.

Bob

Re: Ahahi: Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuk

PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2015 6:42 pm
by FlammableNitrate
Would love to see it. Too bad it probably lacks intertitles though.

Re: Ahahi: Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuk

PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2015 4:26 pm
by Silencebound
Superb news !! But badly needed on coming the rediscovering of Sadao Yamanaka films that hasn't been found yet, so . . . :(

Re: Ahahi: Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuk

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2015 8:55 pm
by kaleidoscopeworld
Wow! I really hope I'll have the chance to see this one!

Re: Ahahi: Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuk

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:58 am
by Gary Newman
A 1928 version of Jitsuroku Cushingura, directed by Shozu Makino, with Benshi narration (subtitled in English), is available from Digital Meme in Japan. They offer nine other DVDs of Benshi narrated silent Japanese films, including two by Mizoguchi.
https://www.digital-meme.com/en/our_products/dvds/index.html

Re: Ahahi: Long-lost 47 Ronin film starring legendary kabuk

PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 2:32 am
by Silencebound
Gary Newman wrote:A 1928 version of Jitsuroku Cushingura, directed by Shozu Makino, with Benshi narration (subtitled in English), is available from Digital Meme in Japan. They offer nine other DVDs of Benshi narrated silent Japanese films, including two by Mizoguchi.
https://www.digital-meme.com/en/our_products/dvds/index.html


Yes, I have them at home - all ten DVD titles from Meme. :)