Having a girlfriend who’s a theatre director means the majority of my free evenings are spent watching all types of weird performances from clowning to full length dramatic plays… usually in some dingy freezing archway under a very noisy station. So when she asked me to go to the BFI to watch a silent black and white Japanese film that was being narrated by her friend. I was more than slightly worried that I’d be bored to death but I agreed to go knowing that I would at least be warm.
Much to my surprise it was one of the most entertaining things I have seen all year! Tomoko Kumura was hilarious as the Benshi with a great range of voices and perfect comedic timing. As Benshi her job was to stand next to the screen and act out all characters of the film accompanied by live music – an old tradition in Japanese cinema. It was fantastic. Totally engaging and seamless and not a cheesy pop star in sight!
The film was a weird mix of American and Japanese culture, with a straight up gangster plot line. Well worth a watch! I’m afraid it was a one night thing at the BFI but I want more.
Note to self: Don’t be afraid to go and see weird high brow stuff… it might just surprise you!
Also for all you music nuts out there Clive Bell and Sylvia Hallett played alongside Tomoko’s narration with some serious skill, I’m not sure what half the instruments they used were called but it sounded ace!