Passing Fancy (1933) at The Film Forum with live benshi

March 21, 2017



On Sunday I had the pleasure of seeing Yasujirō Ozu's silent film, Passing Fancy, on the big screen at The Film Forum. That alone would have been enough to sell me on a day trip to NYC but it gets even better! This screening was accompanied by a live piano performance -- composed and performed by Makia Matsumura -- and a live benshi performance by Ichiro Kataoka.

From the beginning of the film era, way back in the late 1800's, benshi performers would narrate silents films in Japan. Initially they were there to explain western customs to Japanese audiences before imported films, but as the medium grew more complicated, so did the benshi's role. Eventually they took to narrating foreign films during the movie, and acting out Japanese silent films in a way that essentially served as live dubbing! The benshi's popularity was so great that it's partially responsible for Japan's reluctance to adopt sound pictures until the mid 1930's! Of course, when the sound era finally began, the role of the benshi faded away. But the art form has been passed down through the generations, and benshi still perform at repertory silent film screenings around the world to this day. It's a rare treat, though, so I was tickled pink to be able to attend this special screening! In introducing the program, Film Forum programmer Bruce Goldstein said that as soon as they heard that Kataoka was going to be in town they immediately bumped something else from their spring lineup in order to accommodate this screening. For something this unique, that is certainly understandable!

Ichiro Kataoka performed in Japanese, and despite my inability to understand the language, it was still an unbelievably moving experience. I could tell that a lot of his words were meant to be dialogue, matching the mouths of the actors perfectly. He adopted different voices for each of the characters, even convincingly voicing two different women and a child.

It was so moving to me, to think that I was experiencing this film exactly the way that Japanese audiences experienced it in 1933. When Ozu made this film, THIS is how he believed the public would see it. If you ever have the opportunity to see a silent film with live benshi, I highly recommend it. Experiences like this are the closest we have to time travel, I feel. It was just beautiful.

TCMFF 2017 printable schedule

March 20, 2017



The 2017 TCM Film Festival schedule went live today!! Woo hoo! I'll have a whole post soon about which movies I'm most excited about (Barefoot in the Park!!!!!!!) but for now, I just wanted to share this printable schedule that I made. I always find that it's so much easier to plan out what movies I want to see if I'm able to physically circle things and mark up a calendar, but the festival website doesn't really let you print out the schedule.

If anyone else is having the same issue, hopefully this printable guide will come in handy! I only included movie names and start times (no special guests or release years) in order to save space and make sure I could whip this thing up as quickly as possible so everyone can start planning out their choices! I posted previews of the calendar below but for a full-scale printable PDF that you can download and print out, click here.









Celluloid and Canvas - Michèle Morgan

March 11, 2017



Did you know that French actress Michèle Morgan was not only an exceptional on-screen talent and world-class beauty, but a gifted artist as well? After having her portrait painted by Moïse Kisling in 1943, Morgan was inspired to take up painting herself and enrolled in art school in Los Angeles.

She apparently started off doing portraiture, but the only images I could find from this time are from the black and white photo featured below, on her easels and on the wall. They're absolutely stunning, and I wish I could find more of them!





Later on Morgan moved on to still life and abstract works, working on large canvases in bright, bold colors. In an interview with Paris Match in 2008 she said that she had sold at least 100 pieces but still thought of the craft as a hobby! Expressing modesty and calling herself an "amateur," Morgan definitely sold herself short -- her paintings are vibrant expressive pieces that could have easily been painted by a professional artist. As an artist myself, I admire her use of color and I envy her ability to form cohesive, striking abstract works using freeform shapes. Abstraction is harder than it looks and it takes a real talent to create pieces this beautiful.