Follow by Email

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Bologna Diary Four - Shima Koji, Norman Foster's major noir revived.....

Konjiki Yasha/The Golden Demon was written and directed by Koji Shima in 1954 from a novel by Koyo Ozaki. It was the last film for which the Daiei studio used Eastman Colour. Its photography was in the hands of Michio Takahashi, later known for his work as DOP on Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima, Mon Amour (France, 1959). The images are frequently delicately soft and quite gorgeous. Towards the end as hero and heroine traverse a swamp at night and are re-united as dawn breaks, the images truly stunning. The story, we were privately informed before the show, was a little dull. It’s been filmed a dozen or so times and is based on a famous novel written and set in the turbulent Meiji era.

Its tale of love gone wrong as an upright man becomes a vile and compromised miser after family arrangements are made to exclude him from a planned marriage. His would be wife gives in to pressure to marry a rich scion of a banking family. It is of course predictable but at least nowhere near as conservative and backward looking as the previous Japanese entry mentioned, Yamamoto’s  Girls of the Orchard... Keen followers of the Japanese strand were told The Golden Demon was the film that could easily be missed. Something has happened to the selection here and I start to wonder whether those speculating that the Japanese National Film Centre is running its own race...One other interesting point was that the Centre sent a a new 35mm print rather than a new digital copy which might have provided the opportunity to do some rescue work on some of the colour fade....

Woman on the Run (Norman Foster, USA, 1950) has depending on your source of information been out of circulation for close to sixty years or, according to at least one authority, has been in regular circulation via DVD packs of the type 20 Films Noir for $10 overt packs which use bootleg prints and other less than perfect material. Now, thanks to money from the slush funds generated by the profits from the Golden Globes TV show, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has put up enough cash for a fine restoration by the UCLA Film Archive.


Foster is famously known for his collaboration with Orson Welles Journey into Fear (USA, 1943). A quick discussion with the same US authority in the foyer prior to the screening pointed me towards a Mr Moto movie and Foster's first listed feature on IMDB, I Cover Chinatown, (USA, 1936). But here we’re on a greater mission to discern the influence of Welles and the lessons Foster might have learned and applied to a low budget but very classy noir. Certainly, most especially in the climax in the fairground there are hints of The Lady from Shanghai and you can look forward to the ending of Touch of Evil as well. There are half a dozen characters prowling round the pier come fun park and Foster keeps them all in recognisable spatial relationships. The script has a hard edge of wit and Ann Sheridan’s leading lady title role is stoked up with the sort of brazen dialogue that crackles. The twist in the plot brought a gasp from the audience....one external feature of the screening was the spontaneous emergence of ironic clapping after the introducer, a member of the HFPA and clearly a bit of blowhard determined to get his full measure of fifteen minutes of fame, went on and on. After a while the audience started loudly clapping each few sentences suggesting he’d already said more than enough...

No comments:

Post a Comment