Experience the art of benshi or silent film narration together with live music accompaniment by Celso Espejo Rondalla
MANILA (August 8, 2017) – The Japan Foundation, Manila proudly brings a rare performance by Japanese renowned benshi, or silent film narrator Ichiro Kataoka, accompanying Yasujiro Ozu’s silent gangster film DRAGNET GIRL (非常線の女 | Hijyosen no onna, 1933) on Saturday, September 2, at 5:30pm during the 11th International Silent Film Festival Manila held at Shangri-La Cineplex, Shangri-La Plaza from Thursday, August 31 to Sunday, September 3. Accompanying Kataoka’s captivating live interpretations of silent film will be the acclaimed Celso Espejo Rondalla (CER), performing their own original music score giving authentic Philippine flavor to the Japanese classical film. Admission is free on a first-come, first-served basis.
Throughout the world, silent films were shown with musical accompaniment. However, the silent films screened in Japan from the turn of the century to the mid-1930s were not only accompanied by live music but also a performer, known as a katsudo benshi (活動弁士) or benshi (弁士) for short, delivering live performance acting as a narrator, actor and storyteller. Standing next to the screen, benshi provides everything an audience may need to fully appreciate and enjoy a silent film. Some of the benshis were stars and had their own followers, making them more popular than the movie itself at the time.With the coming of sound film, benshi disappeared but a small number of benshi continued to perform along with silent film screenings, keeping this unique tradition and art of narration alive. Ichiro Kataoka is one of the best-known active professional benshi in Japan today. He has been narrating more than 350 silent films not only in Japan but internationally, having been invited to perform at festivals and special screenings around the world including Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden and United States. A star student of master benshi Midori Sawato, he is also a film and television performer, a voice actor for animation and video games. This is his first time to perform in the Philippines.
Accompanying the silent film and benshi is the CER, one of the Philippines’ world class string ensembles founded in 2002 by Maestro Celso Espejo, the group’s conductor and one of the pillars of the Philippine Rondalla. The CER is composed of three generations of outstanding rondalla players and have been invited to perform nationally and internationally. In 2012, the group represented the Philippines in the 3rd International Music Festival in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. A year after, the group performed at the 65th Anniversary of the Embassy of the Philippines in Rome, Italy, the India International Center Experience: Festival of The Arts in New Delhi India (2013) and the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Iran and the Philippines in Tehran.
Yasujiro Ozu’s gangster film DRAGNET GIRL, which Kataoka will narrate, is considered as one of Japanese cinema’s masterpieces; and is about a body guard committing robbery to help a subordinate in trouble and plans to make a getaway, but is confronted by his lover, a typist who by night inhibits the world of the yakuza. Kataoka will narrate the film in Japanese, and there will be subtitle of his narration in English. The movie will be presented in a rare 35mm and lasts 100 minutes. Kataoka will also briefly explain about the history of benshi and answer questions from the audience.