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The Sound of Silence
net_orders15 December 2021
Warning: Spoilers
A rambunctious, amusing, clever, and (apparently) historically accurate movie (frequently punctuated with absurdities) that seems to show that silent films in Japan were never really silent. This was due to the talents of movie benshi (narrators) who were skilled in providing multiple voices for screen characters of both sexes as well as narrations that may have had little or nothing to do with a film's actual tale with or without intertitles (see below). The popularity of benshi seem to have far surpassed that of film actors which might help explain why sound films first appeared in Japan more than five years after the rest of the world. Japanese audiences simply did not want to have new technology displace their beloved benshi! There are multiple plot lines in this movie including heated rivalries within a small town's benshi hierarchy and hostiles between movie theaters competing for benshi as well as a gang of thieves who burgle houses while their owners are away watching the latest movie to hit town. These are interwoven with a love story that does not end especially well. The film also repeatedly drives home the point that what appeared on screen, at least during the early days of silent movies in Japan, could be totally irrelevant. A talented benshi could invent a new (and usually better!) story line on the fly (sort of analogous to when subtitles in modern Japanese films wander away and tell a different story of their own!). Wild and improbable behavior shown on the silent screen is mimicked in off-screen "reality" ad nasium. This results in a film that is way too long with obvious padding which can become unbearable (if not embarrassing) for the viewer. Cinematography is so-so with outdoor sets appearing small and cramped, and some interiors scenes under lighted to where the actors can only be heard. There are continuity problems. Music is rather light weight and highly redundant. Some closing credits are translated. Over all, the movie is often enjoyable and should be especially pleasing for silent film history buffs. Viewed at Japan Society (NY) Flash Forward Film Event. WILLIAM FLANIGAN.
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u-3218715 May 2020
The movie is so cute and touching. I think it is not only a love letter to the silent film era in Japan, but also to the world. What if it was crazy? That's what the movie world was like at the time. "In real life, you can continue to make sequels."
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