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Tatsu is a slightly delusional painter who lives in the wilderness. He spends his days painting nothing but the image of his love, a princess he believes to have been incarnated as a dragon. His work is noticed by a servant of Kano Indara, an aging master painter who has no male heir or disciple to pass his skills to. The servant brings Tatsu to Indara under the belief that Indara can help him find his princess in exchange for allowing Indara to pass his knowledge on to him. Once there, Tatsu is led to believe that Indara's daughter, Ume Ko, is the princess. Tatsu agrees to stay, but now that he has found his love he no longer has the inspiration to paint the masterpieces that he once produced. Ume Ko pretends to kill herself so that Tatsu can once again find inspiration through his sorrow, and once he regains this she reveals herself to him. He has learned that "love must be a slave to art", and they live out the rest of their days together, with Tatsu painting her as he once did. Written by
A silent film from 1919, this is a story about Tatsu, the Dragon Painter, played by Sessue Hayakawa, who was quite a big star in American silent film ( he won an Oscar for his work decades later in "Bridge Over The River Kwai"). He is seeking an enchanted princess whom the gods took from him. He paints pictures of dragons because of this. An older artist named Indara, seeking to find an heir to his artistry, hears about Tatsu and summons him. He realizes Tatsu is the real thing and lures him by using his daughter Ume-Ko (played by Hayakawa's real life wife, Tsuru Aoki)to act as the princess Tatsu seeks. This film is great. It is a simple story told perfectly, in less than an hour. It was part of a TCM network retrospective on Asian images in cinema. The film is beautifully restored and even has great music, played on instruments from Japan. This is a silent film that you should enjoy, it tells the tale wonderfully. I recommend it.
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