Kabuki Actor Nizaemon - The Chapter of Tosen

JAPAN / 1994 / Japanese / Color / 16mm / 158 min

Director: Haneda Sumiko
Photography: Nishio Kiyoshi, Soda Kikumatsu, Sato Kazuto
Sound: Takizawa Osamu
Producer: Kudo Mitsuru
Production Company, Source: Jiyu Kobo Co., Ltd.
15-1 Nanpeidai, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0036
Phone: 81-3-3463-7543 / Fax: 81-3-3496-4295

Haneda Sumiko

Documentary filmmaker. Born 1926 in Dalian, North East China. Joined Iwanami Productions in 1950. From 1953 worked as an assistant director and wrote scripts for industrial films, then directed her first film Women's College in the Village ("Mura no fujin gakkyu") in 1957. In 1977, she produced independently the highly acclaimed documentary The Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms ("Usuzumi no sakura"). She left Iwanami in 1981 in favor of independent filmmaking. Her works include Ode to Mt. Hayachine ("Hayachine no fu," 1982), and AkikoPortrait of a Dancer ("Akiko—Aru dansa no shozo," 1985). She is especially acclaimed for her work on the problems of old age such as seen in How to Care for the Senile ("Chihosei rojin no sekai," 1986), and the 6-part series Kabuki Actor Nizaemon ("Kabuki-yakusha Kataoka Nizaemon," 1994), an intimate portrait of the late Nizaemon, one of the greatest Kabuki actors of our time in the last years of his life. In 1996 she made Welfare as Chosen by Our Town's Citizens ("Jumin no sentaku shita machi no fukushi"), and has just completed work on its sequel, Questions Yet Remain ("Mondai wa kore kara desu").

Kataoka Nizaemon the 13th (1903-1994) was one of the greatest Kabuki actors of this century. Since making Nizaemon as Lord Sugawara ("Kan Sho-jo: Kataoka Nizaemon," 1982) featuring the great actor performing his most celebrated role in the play The Tragedy of Lord Sugawara ("Sugawara-Denju Tenarai-Kagami,") it has been filmmaker Haneda Sumiko's life work to film the venerable performer's old age. In 1994, she completed the monumental 6-part, 14-hour documentary Kabuki Actor Nizaemon ("Kabuki-Yakusha Kataoka Nizaemon"). This film from that series is called Chapter of Tosen. Tosen, taken from the words of a Sung-era poem is the ascent towards the heavens of a hermit wizard. Haneda observes the great actor's final days. He has been blind for years, and has gradually lost control of his body and needs people to help him walk on stage. Yet, when the music of the stage reaches his ears, the god of theater possesses his body.

Juror's Statement
Human beings are active creatures. We dream of unlimited progress, unable to control ourselves. We somehow live surrounded by a flow which forces us ahead. This flow only accelerates and we can do nothing to suppress it. And so we are consumed with uneasiness. What fate awaits the human race? Is unlimited progress truly possible? But happy people are living creatures, and their lifetimes are limited. We are greedy, yet incapable of learning anything about the world of death. And so we direct all our energies towards living, and all, both the good and the bad, is magnified and reproduced. What will become of us? Full of riddles, human beings are also greedy when it comes to self-pursuit. Such actions of self-expression give birth to art.
In a word, it is these reflections which inspire my thoughts. Cinema exists as a fascinating means for me to express them.
Advances in technology allow anyone to lay hands on filmic images, and make possible a myriad of expression. Such conditions give rise to works which render difficult any classifications like fiction and documentary. From the perspective of film art, a filmmaker's choice of means of expression is quite broad and so it should be no surprise that films are produced which do not fit into any category.
Most essentially, then, doesn't this mean that filmmakers can clearly express their thoughts, whatever they may be, regardless of new technologies?

COPYRIGHT:Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee