Back from Japan and heavily jet-lagged as usual, I was wandering the many Noh-related blog pages when I bumped into 天河伝説殺人事件 (Tenkawa Densetsu Satsujin Jiken) a 1991 thriller by Ichikawa Kon, the director of The Burmese Harp, Tokyo Olympiad and many other legendary films. 天河伝説殺人事件 looks like a standard 80s old-school detective story with the surprising twist of being centred upon homicides related to Noh theatre. I haven’t seen the movie myself but I am about to make an order to Amazon.jp where they seem to have DVD copies of it. It just looks very cool – the retro-sound score, the ossan hat of the protagonist, the terrible オーバー acting technique of the actors… and on top of it, it’s Ichikawa! The review of the All Movie Guide has been published on the New York Times here. Googling a bit I found the trailer uploaded on YouTube.
How to pay my respect to one of the greatest masters of Japanese cinema? Well, first of all with a ‘thank you’. It is through one of Kurosawa-sensei’s films, Throne of Blood (1957) that I first encountered Noh theatre. While working on my MA dissertation at University of Verona (I was studying Shakespeare at the time) I fortuitously bumped into this screen adaptation of Macbeth. Kurosawa explicitly draws from Noh theatre to produce a masterpiece of black and white, sound and silence. Since then, I have seen Throne of Blood a zillion times, I wrote articles on it, produced the extras for the Italian DVD edition, etc.). Still the perfection of this film moves me as a few other things in my life did. My humble contribution to the genius of Kurosawa is in fact a token of thankfulness for having introduced Noh theatre in such a creative, yet ‘authentic’ way. Kurosawa not only loved Noh: he also understood it so well to know how to transpose its ineffable aesthetics on film, and with such a power. Akira Kurosawa has been long criticised by the Japanese for being too ‘Western’ – I say that it is thanks to artists who dare to do challenge the boundaries of genre, class, local criticism that an artistic dialogue, notoriously more effective than the political, can successfully take place. My reception of Noh started with his work, and I am doing my best to follow his example. So.. thank you, Kurosawa-sensei.
A still from Federico Fellini’s Intervista (1987), portraying actor Marcello Mastroianni in equivocal attitude with a ko-omote mask. I find the picture rather disturbing – Fellini style.