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Kaizo Hayashi - A Silent Film Director Speaks

2018/10/14 Event

KIFF 2018 has presented a number of silent film masterpieces at the 110-year-old theater Ooe Nougakudou, ranging from Laurel and Hardy comedies to some of the earliest Japanese sword fighting movies. At a screening on Sunday, October 14, something happened that was not possible with the other silent films. The director came to watch along with the audience and speak about the film afterwards.

Kaizo Hayashi said “the other directors shown here have all passed away. I am the only one who is alive, so that makes me feel somewhat special.” Hayashi did not make his film in the silent era. In fact, “To Sleep so as to Dream” was made in 1986. But it pays tribute to early Japanese film with its black and white photography, no dialogue, and titles in beautiful hand-written Japanese.

The story involves a detective who hired to find the kidnapped daughter of an elderly woman. After following a series of strange clues, he discovers that his client is Japan’s very first film actress, who started her career after a ban on showing films with women was lifted. Before that, as on Shakespeare’s stage, female roles were played by men. The aging actress is played by Fujiko Fukamizu, who really did work in pre-War Japanese film.

The tribute to the silent film era was completed by pianist Haruka Amamiya, who provided musical accompaniment, and Raiko Sakamoto, who narrated the film in the style that was popular nearly a century ago.

After the screening, Hayashi shared some of his memories of making the film over 30 years ago. When he completed the first edit it was 79 minutes long, but he learned that a film had to be at least 80 minutes in order to have a theatrical release. “I had to look for little pieces of film that we had cut out,” he recalled with a laugh.

Hayashi was surprised by the enthusiastic audience that came for the screening, saying maybe the time is right for him to make some new silent films.

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