Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The "Twenty-Four Eyes" phenomena

by Chris MaGee

I was really happy when Criterion released Keisuke Kinoshita's 1954 film "Twenty-Four Eyes" on DVD in August. While I had seen the film before on a beaten up old VHS copy I borrowed from the library it was only fitting that the folks at Criterion finally got around to giving it the loving attention to one of the most popular films in Japanese cinema history. That phrase gets bandied around quite a bit when "Twenty-Four Eyes" is discussed, but even I wasn't fully aware of just what a huge phenomena the film was in Japan until I did some research online.

The original sets for "Twenty-Four Eyes", including the school house, school bus and 18 houses decorated with period furniture, have been turned into the Nijū-shi no Hitomi Eigamura, the "Twenty-Four Eyes" Film Park in Uchinomi-cho on Shodoshima Island. You can find out info about the park in English here and in Japanese here. Such a good job has been done with preserving these sets that the 1987 remake of "Twenty-Four Eyes" was shot here. Yes, you heard me right... a remake. Not only did Yoshitaka Asama, the screenwriter behind several of the Tora-san films as well as Yoji Yamada's "The Twilight Samurai" and "The Hidden Blade" helm this remake starring Yûko Tanaka as Miss Oishi, but "Twenty-Four Eyes" was adapted by Akio Jisshoji into an animated FujiTV special in 1980.

A theme park, two remakes, but it doesn't end there. Not one, but two commemorative statues have been erected on Shodoshima Island (see one above) and there's even a website, 24hitomi.com that sells everything from DVDs, CDs of the film's soundtrack and books to "Twenty-Four Eyes" themed candy, soy sauce and olive oil, the latter being made on Shodoshima, Japan's largest domestic olive producer.

See? I told you the film was popular. Check out my review for "Twenty-Four Eyes" here, and if you haven't had a chance to see the film yet then do so. It's a real classic.

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