by Chris MaGee
This past fall New Yorkers got a chance to see some truly rare cinematic gems from the Nikkatsu vaults when "Velvet Bullets and Steel Kisses: Celebrating the Nikkatsu Centennial" retrospective was held at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. (read our report here). While the retrospective included films from the full century of Nikkatsu history as a movie studio, it was the earliest entries that had a lot of people excited. Films like Sadao Yamanaka's 1935 jidai-geki "The Pot Worth A Million Ryo" and Daisuke Ito's 1927 chanbara classic "A Diary of Chuji's Travels" rarely get seen in Japan and hardly ever get screened outside Japan; but what about more on the history of the very early days of Japan's oldest surviving movie studio?
According to a Facebook post by Yale professor Aaron Gerow, the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum at Waseda University is currently holding an exhibit on Nikkatsu's Mukojima Studio. This studio, in the east end of Tokyo, was built in 1912 and was in operation until its destruction in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Many of the films shot at Mukojima were of popular shimpa, or "new school", stage plays. Although these plays portrayed melodramatic stories of modern Japan they, like traditional kabuki, still employed male actors to play female roles. Part of this exhibit will be free screenings of the 1916 silent film "Uikiyo".
For more details (in Japanese) on this fascinating exhibition which runs at the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum from December 3rd to March 25th click here.
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