Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The 2nd International Silent Film Festival: Taki No Shiraito (1933)

Taki No Shiraito (Cascading White Threads), shown in the Festival on August 27, is a 1933 film by renowned Japanese filmmaker Kenji Mizoguchi (whose eerily beautiful Ugetsu Monogatari gave me the creeps when I saw it years ago in a film festival). In the movie, a succesful "water magician" named Shiraito falls in love with a younger guy, Kin-san, who had to stop schooling because of poverty. In exchange for the guy's love, Shiraito promised to send him to law school in Tokyo while she tours Japan with her troupe. Kin-san also falls in love with Shiraito and he goes to continue his studies, while the woman tries to earn enough money to be able to support him. As is common with traveling performers, the troupe falls on hard times, Shiraito has to stop sending money to Kin-san, Kin-san has to get a job to support himself, and tragedy ensues because of the troupe's money problems. Towards the end, because of wanting to get enough money for Kin-san, Shiraito stands trial for murder, and who else comes to be the prosecutor but none other than the love of her life, who is now a succesful lawyer in Tokyo (shades of Korea's Chunhyang).

And that is when you try to find this movie to find out what happens next. I'm not sure though if the movie is commercially available, but it badly needs a Criterion Collection restoration. It is quite an accessible film even for non-art film lovers (but in truth, many so-called "art films" were not really meant to be such; they're just old and smart and well-crafted, so don't be scared to watch them. But if it's Godard or Ingmar Bergman, I'd understand.)

Bob Aves provided the music, supposedly an homage to Mizoguchi. It's amazing how Filipino traditional musical instruments can sound very Japanese and retain their Filipino-ness. Clearly we have a lot more in common than we think.

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