Friday, November 9, 2012

Japanese benshi (silent film narrator) coming to the Cinematheque

[Press release from the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

 

Ichiro Kataoka, one of Japan’s foremost benshi (or silent film narrators), will perform in person at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque on Friday, November 16, at 7:30 pm. Kataoka will narrate the 1935 Japanese silent film AN INN AT TOKYO directed by Yasujiro Ozu (TOKYO STORY).

In Japan silent films were accompanied not only by music, but also by a benshi. Standing next to the screen, the benshi provided a running commentary on the movie while relaying the film’s story in a theatrical manner (playing multiple roles with a variety of voices). Some benshi were so popular that they were more of a draw than the movie itself! Though benshi disappeared with the coming of sound, certain individuals kept the tradition alive. Ichiro Kataoka is one of Japan’s foremost practitioners of this vanished art. He was the star pupil of master benshi Midori Sawato (who performed at The Cleveland Museum of Art in 1989) and is also a film and television performer, a voice actor for video games, and a historian. AN INN AT TOKYO, the movie he will narrate, is a moving drama about the relationship between an unemployed father and an equally destitute single mother.


Although Kataoka’s narration will be in Japanese, Ozu’s film has English subtitles, so will be entirely understandable to a non-Japanese-speaking audience. The movie, which also has a music track, will be presented in 35mm and lasts 80 minutes. Kataoka will answer audience questions after the screening. He leaves the next day for a series of performances at Harvard University.

This special film screening and performance will take place in the Aitken Auditorium of the Cleveland Institute of Art, 11141 East Boulevard in University Circle.  Admission is $11; members & CIA I.D. holders $9; age 25 & under $7 (with proof of age). No passes, twofers, or radio winners will be accepted. $11 and $9 tickets can be purchased in advance at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/285725. For further information, call John Ewing or Tim Harry at (216) 421-7450.

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