Silent Film: Discover, Restore, Preserve, then Show! (Part Two)

TOP > 映画の復元と保存に関するワークショップ > Silent Film: Discover, Restore, Preserve, then Show! (Part Two)

Silent Film: Discover, Restore, Preserve, then Show! (Part Two)

>> 日本語

A Session from the 12th Film Restoration and Preservation Workshop
Silent Film: Discover, Restore, Preserve, then Show! (Part Two)

Part One|Part Two

Reevaluation of “Comedy King” Torajiro Saito


Overview of the venue

Yanashita: Could you tell us about other popular Japanese silent films overseas?

Tsuneishi: Hardly any of Torajiro Saito’s silent films had survived and his post-war films are little bit boring. We know how he was truly a “Comedy King” through his “Kid Commotion” (1935), which is also available thanks to Matsuda Productions. That famous running scene with a pig makes foreign audiences scream with laughter.

Saito’s “A Buddhist Mass for Goemon Ishikawa” from the Ukayama Collection has got more twists in it, and both have contributed to the rediscovery of this genius film director, I think.

Yanashita: Both Saito and Ozu show different styles before and after the war in comparison, don’t you think? I remember Prof. Murakawa also said that Ozu’s “Fighting Friends – Japanese Style” looks like an American film.

A leading benshi Midori Sawato and myself have been working on “Lost Film Project” to show reconstructed films using the script and as much existing film and still photographs as possible. We really hope to work on Saito’s titles someday but it’s so hard to find even the tiniest scrap of material.

The more popular, the less chance of survival, so it means that Saito’s silent films were too attractive?

Matsudo: According to film historian Tadao Sato, who interviewed film director Heinosuke Gosho, Gosho sadly said that “Ozu is lucky. Films of mine or Saito’s were so popular and that is why they were all gone”.

The artistic element of Ozu films was highly valued and in fact his films were awarded best of the year by the periodical “Kinema Jumpo” many times, but they did not get any box office success. So probably his films were stored in the vault safe and sound.

In those days there was no second or third usage like present time, so after the new release those films were sold off to provincial areas, and never returned. If original negatives were also lost, the film company could do nothing about it.

I’m afraid to think that those popular titles would have been shown over and over again in the countryside and ended up vanishing.

Yanashita: I’ll add some information here.

In Japan silent films continued to be made later than the US or Europe. For example, a small production company called Daito continued to produce silent films until 1938.

Ozu’s last silent film was made in 1936, and 17 out of a total of 34 survived, including incomplete versions. It means that the survival rate is 50%, which is a miracle number for Japanese films. *3

Present day audiences really enjoy Ozu films but on the other hand, the films loved by audiences in the past have been lost. What an irony.

Matsudo: Ozu films are popular because they survived, that’s one way to look at it.

Recently I watched news from the Chugoku region where they researched the film director Sentaro Shirai, who died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. He made nearly 100 films in his lifetime but including excerpts, only six titles are left according to them. However, a survival rate of 5 to 6% is average for Japanese silent films.

Yanashita: That’s true.

Here we will show you excerpts from Torajiro Saito’s “Kid Commotion” with live music.

Live performance 2 – “Kid Commotion” (Aprrox three minutes)

Yanashita: Thank you for your attention.

One of the hosts of this workshop, Film Preservation Society, discovered and restored six Japanese silent films through their project called “Adopt a Film”. They donated restored versions to public film archives for preservation, and we often borrow the DVDs. And the first title was Torajiro Saito’s Shochiku graph version of “Modern Horror 100,000,000 yen” (1929).


Shunsui Matsuda (Photo courtesy of Matsuda Productions)

As with Shunsui Matsuda’s efforts, as well as for business purposes, present day benshi Ichiro Kataoka and Raiko Sakamoto are making efforts to discover films. Just a few months ago they discovered “Watashi no papa-san mama ga suki” (1931) starring Hideko Takamine as a child actor. It rewrote film history.

Tomijiro Komiya Collection from NFC has got a high reputation internationally. Mr Komiya had collected foreign films, and films from his collection have often been shown, for example at the silent film festival in Bologna, Italy. Probably some of today’s attendees studied under him but Hiroshi Komatsu, professor at Waseda University is collecting extremely rare films.

Speaking of Waseda, Prof Murakawa’s mentor was Tadashi Iimura (1902-1996) at Waseda University, right?

Murakawa: Exactly. I leaned French film theory etc. in the MA course at Waseda from him. I was into new films so started going to film festivals overseas, but Henri Langlois was involved in international film festivals by offering classics for their retrospectives.

Yanashita: Have you met him in person?

Murakawa: I saw Langlois at Cannnes in 1973 when Yoshishige Yoshida’s “Kaigenrei” was shown. Richard Roud, who wrote the biography on Langlois, had been working at Cinematheque Francais for 16 years. He was really famous as a multilingual presenter at Cannes.

Silent Film is Proliferating

Yanashita: As a film critic, could you think of any experience of value shift due to newly discovered long lost film?

Murakawa: Not a value shift, but I realized the excerpts of “Orochi” we just watched had better visual quality than the video I’m using in my class! I’d like to switch to a better one next time.

I teach film history but let my students learn the innocence and essence of silent films which is the origin of present day motion pictures. And I’m always telling them to consider them in the context of contemporary films.

Students these days hardly go to movies but they seem to like silent films. It’s full of gems of visual expression and……

Yanashita: Could you be a little more specific about “gems”?

Murakawa: For example, the idea you can see in Kaizo Hayashi’s “To Sleep So As To Dream” (1986), which was shown at the New York Film Festival I’ve been attending since the 1980s.

Yanashita: It was Hayashi’s feature debut, and a silent film. I believe that Shunsui Matsuda was starred.

Murakawa: As an academic researcher I might have to categorize it as a silent film but another example I use in my class is “Metropolis”……

Yanashita: Fritz Lang’s 1927 German film.

Murakawa: That’s right. “Metropolis” was once released on VHS video series supervised by Nagaharu Yodogawa (1909-1998). But in 2008 there was a discovery of new footage and then the Blu-ray disc was released in 2010 (150 minutes) with bonus documentary footage about the restoration process. It’s about 40 minutes longer, isn’t it?


Poster of “Metropolis”(wikimedia)

Tsuneishi: In the case of “Metropolis”, the restored, longest version was completed in Germany in 2000 using so much surviving footage from all over the world. At the time the restoration program was not as advanced as nowadays so there were so many problems they had to deal with. However, another almost complete 16mm version was discovered in Argentina a few years later.

After the big restoration project, new footage pops up, which seems to be a strange theory and I know many other similar cases. That’s why silent films are said to be proliferating. *4

In 2014, Filmarchive Austria and NFC had an exchnage program (Silent Film Renaissance 2014 from Vienna: Treasures of Filmarchiv Austria), and the German masterpiece “Die freudlose Gasse” (1925) was shown once with performance by benshi Raiko Sakamoto.

I sent a DVD copy to him well in advance as a reference but the actual projection print was way longer than the DVD!

The print was the version restored by us in cooperation with Munich Film Museum. The restoration work of “Die freudlose Gasse” is almost like a lifework of the head of the museum, Stefan Drößler, who discovered footage one piece after another from somewhere and is making it longer and longer. I was so sorry for Mr Sakamoto as he prepared perfectly by using the DVD copy.

Yanashita: Silent films progress or take steps forward towards revealing their original state, which is really exciting.

In the case of “Metroplis” the piano score survived and the archestration version based on it was made before, and I also went to see the tour of the digitally restored version in 2000 with music by Art Zoyd. I was struck by its crisp image, and almost forgot about the music.

Murakawa: I would love to experience silent films like that as a new film, using new technology.

Yanashita: What do you think of the modernity of silent films, Mr Matsudo?

Matsudo: In short, the reaction of kids when I go to show them at schools. They don’t judge films if it’s old or new, do they? It’s just fun or boring.

Yanashita: There are benshi or musicians right in front of them for live performance…… the film used to be in that form.

Matsudo: Exactly.

Yanashita: When I did a kids program before, I used digital material for the rehearsal, and then switched to film. I was surprised that the kids’ reaction was totally different. They concentrated much more on the film version, which might be down to the look of it, I guess.

Matsudo: Sometimes after school events, we receive pictures from them. There are kids who draw the projector rather than the film on the screen. Now in the digital age, they never have the chance to see motion picture films.

Yanashita: Mr Matsudo sometimes brings a 16mm projector to the venue and works as a projectionist.

Matsudo: Yes, it is strange but I used to naturally think that showing films from the projection booth is a much better environment. But recently, if I set the projector in the auditorium, where you can see the machine and hear the sound of the motor running, people say, “Wow! It’s film projection today, how gorgeous”. That’s a big change, I feel.

Tsuneishi: It’s a personal matter, but I have liitle kids at home so for their birthday parties we show 16mm films for them.

Yanashita: What a luxurious party!

Tsuneishi: It’s really funny looking at their reactions. There are always one or two kids who focus on the projector saying, “what on earth is this?”.

Yanashita: I think Ms Tsuneishi placed the order of the Pathe-Baby’s digital restoration to Haghefilm in Netherlands in the past. I would like to know the background.

Tsuneishi: Actually, I just visited Haghefilm a few months back and have seen the Oxberry printer which was amended to fit the restoration work. I felt nostalgic thinking back to those days. There were specially prepared gates such as 22mm, 17.5mm, 9.5mm all ready for the next order. *5

The Ukayama Collection was already restored by Ikueisha, a film lab in Tokyo. *6 Ikueisha had an amended printer they made themselves using a 35mm camera and Pathe-Baby projector face to face. The condition of the original film was good and we were happy with the result to some extent. That was the only choice anyway, in those days.

However in 2002, Daisuke Ito’s Pathe-Baby version of “Man Slashing, Horse Piercing Sword” was discovered. It was beyond Ikueisha’s capacity.

As mentioned previously, it was a samurai drama with powerful sword fight scenes, so it might have been shown frequently, or I’m not sure but it was badly damaged anyway. When I was thinking of dealing with it somehow, I saw digitally restored 22mm film at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. 22mm is the short lived format by Edison Co. which didn’t spread in Europe because of Pathe’s interference. That restoration was by Haghefilm.

On my flight back from Pordenone, I had a six hour transit in Amsterdam so luckily enough I was able to visit their lab. I checked the cost there and got budget at exactly the right time, so I decided to place the order to Haghefilm to save “Man Slashing, Horse Piercing Sword”.

Also, 2003 was the centenary of Ozu so Shochiku was running a big campaign for that. “Fighting Friends – Japanese Style” was also restored by Haghefilm and it was one of the highlights.

Yanashita: Speaking of Pathe-Baby, Mr Matsudo, I heard that you lent your projector to IMAGICA.

Matsudo: Yes, but it’s more than 30 years ago, when the restoration just as Ms Tuneishi mentioned was impossible in those days in Japan.

My father received the first Citizen of Tokyo award from Tokyo Metropolitan Government (in 1985), and used the prize money for duplication of 9.5mm versions of “Soteio” (1927) and “Gekimetsu” (1930). Also a former student of Keio University asked us to show 9.5mm films of the Karate moves of the founder of their Karate club.

It was not a blowup restoration but we projected films and shot the image on the screen. We had a Pathe-Baby projector somehow working at the time, so we brought it to IMAGICA – which was called Far East Lab at the time. They used the high quantity light so it became too hot to touch……

Yanashita: The films might have melted!

Matsudo: We have more 9.5mm films in the collection, but mostly untouched.

Yanashita: I would like to ask you about the budget for preservation. In case of Matsuda Productions, you prepared an internal budget for it.

Matsudo: More or less, yes, we managed to make safety copies of nitrate films, or blowups of 9.5mm to make them usable by ourselves. But the budget is not enough for 35mm film, so sometimes in the case of duplication we had to compromise and use 16mm.

Yanashita: Concerning budget, could you tell us some examples in Austria, Ms Tsuneishi?

Tsuneishi: Well, film restoration is costly…… or I should say it demands manpower, so we often set TV broadcasting as one of the goals of the restoration, and use the profits from that to cover the restoration costs.

And last year we tried our first crowdfunding project. From yesterday’s session I learned that Shochiku’s Otani Library’s management or color restoration of Ozu films went successfully thanks to crowdfunding. I guess there are more cases in Japan, but let me introduce the project I experienced.

“Die Stadt ohne Juden” (1924) is a film with an anti-Antisemitic tendency, I mean, an ethically good film, but the scenes describing synagogues and the cruel treatment of Jewish people were intentionally cut. A different version of this film including the important scenes was discovered in a flea market in France.

The goal of this crowdfunding was 75,000 Euros, which was rather tough. We cannot get anything at all if the goal is not reached, so I was pleading to “make it a little lower”, but the project got so much support not only domestically but also internationally and surprisingly for me it reached the goal at once.

We prepared a lot of benefits for donors. And the most impressive fact for me was that six people donated 450 Euros, and their reward was to attend a restoration workshop.

We have so many unidentified nitrate films inside so we gave each person a one minute long film and let them experience cleaning, scanning, digital repair, and grading, for which we got the idea from the Selznick School of George Eastman Museum in the US. The results were saved on a DVD, which was their souvenir.

It was a fairly time-consuming project and the limit was two persons a day, so it took us three full days. I wonder if it was worth 450 Euros each, but for an individual donation, 450 Euros is quite an amount, don’t you think? I would hesitate if I were a donor.

So I asked them why they took part in the crowdfunding at lunch time – we prepared lunch for them, too. I expected that they simply wanted to support the Jewish community but none of them said so.

They say “It is the newly discovered film and it is sad if it is not restored”, or “I was in two minds, 100 Euros or 450 Euros, but curious about the restoration workflow so decided to donate 450 Euros”. I was really encouraged by that.

Yanashita: The souvenir DVD must have been their personal treasure. Is it OK to show the DVD to the public by the way?

Tsuneishi: The concept behind it is that the film is unidentified and we need their help to identify it so it’s no problem. If they want to put it on SNS that’s also wonderful.

Yanashita: Great……!

Tsuneishi: Silent film screenings are to protect the tradition, which is one aspect, but another aspect is as Prof. Murakawa said, a contemporary way of screening, so to say, to show them in a cool way. Adding music is the default of silent films and it has tremendous possibilities. They are really precious media, I believe.

Putting personal preference aside, there are various ways of showing silent films; with contemporary music, only percussion, or with DJ performance… so many examples in the world but we are having a project called “Cinema Sessions”. For this project it doesn’t matter if the films are great or not, but music goes ahead, and we unexpectedly meet up with new audiences thanks to the music.

When the restored version of E. A. Dupont’s “Variete” (1925) was premiered at the “Berlinale Classics” of the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015, a British band called The Tiger Lilies played music for it. I’ll show the clips for about three minutes.

Excerpts of “Variete”

Murakawa: It reminded me of a Broadway musical. Definitely a good contemporary way of showing.

Tsuneishi: At the beginning it is a bit like Yiddish music, which might be called “klezmer”. I think the scene we just watched was good. But in the middle where the vocalist started talking, for me personally it was unacceptable.

Yanashita: This is exactly the example of the music ahead of the film.

Film director Kei Shichiri, who took part in this workshop yesterday, has such a project to make films starting from music. There are a lot of different ways of thinking but for silent films which are already completed, it is difficult to make music together with them……

I myself think that the screen is a musical score and try to play music as if my music is supporting it from behind.

Tsuneishi: You can see this “Variete” tonight with her live performance, only the ending though.

Yanashita: I’ll show you “Variete” with totally different music so please join the screenings night.

That’s it for our session. Thank you very much for your participation.

Sunday August 27th, 2017 10:10-11:45am
The University of Electro-Communications B-202

>> Go back to Part One

*3: According to NFAJ, the surviving rate of Japanese silent films (feature films) are 0.2% in the 1910s, 4.1% in the 1920s, and 11.7% in the 1930s.

*4: Martin Koerber “Notes on the Proliferation of Metropolis (1927)” translated by Satoshi Yada.

*5: The method to immerse the film in solvent so that the scratches are not so distinctive after duplication.

*6: Ikueisha closed its lab in 2006.

Related Links

Language: English






東京現像所 全事業終了


メールアドレス 登録はこちらから