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Noh-Gakushi (2003)



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Credited cast:
Shirô Sano ... Narrator
Shoroku Sekine ... Himself
Yoshito Sekine ... Himself


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Release Date:

March 2003 (Japan)  »

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An enjoyable 60-minute documentary, worth your time if you have an interest in Japanese culture
18 October 2017 | by See all my reviews

Nice little documentary about classic noh theater that focuses on a 70-year old noh master and his 42 year old son, who has followed in his father's footsteps. Mixed in with some basic information about the ideas and philosophy of this art form, you also get a little bit of storytelling from the son about his relationship with a strict father.

I have personally seen over 30 noh performances, and although I usually don't care for filming of stage performance, I thought that the film did a good job. There are some long extended shots of Dojoji, one of the most famous and most dynamic noh plays, to give the viewer a good introduction about what noh looks like, even if you cannot come to Japan and see it yourself.

Despite being a TV scale (size-wise; 16mm?) documentary, the framing, editing, and sound were all pretty good, if a bit aged. My biggest complaint would be the English translation (there is also Chinese and French, but I watched with the English subs). According to the credits, these were done by the Japanese director. It sometimes seems to suffer from over simplification, kind of like what the translator did for Bill Murray's character in the movie Lost in Translation. My Japanese isn't perfect, but that was my opinion. To someone who doesn't know anything about Japanese or noh, there might be some confusion.

Overall, an enjoyable 60-minute documentary, worth your time if you have an interest in Japanese culture.

Noh is not an easy thing to understand for even Japanese people, and most people only watch it once, and never again because they complain about being confused and falling asleep due to the slow pace and hypnotic rhythms of the music. If you see it yourself, I would recommend looking up translations of the play online or in your library beforehand. They usually only take about 10 minutes or less to read, and consist mostly of poetry, which may be translated in many different better or worse ways. It may also help, if are a fan of performance art or David Lynch, to think of it as something like that. Noh is very strange, very atmospheric, and often with dark with stories about spirits, ghosts or demons.

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