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Sunday, 3 July 2016

Bologna Diary (10) - James Whale, A Mishima adaptation in the Japanese Colour film selection

I'm afraid that the enthusiasm for the films of James Whale, on display again here when dozens of people were forced to stand or sit along the walls of the biggest Cinema Ritrovato theatre to see his Remember Last Night (USA, 1935), remains a mystery to me. His work was prestigious and he got to handle some interesting stories. But the clunkiness level is way too high. The Kiss Before the Mirror  (USA, 1933) winds its way from trick murder opening through courtroom machinations and final revelations with such plodding pace so that even at 68 minutes it seems to be wearing out its welcome.  But the clunk level here is nothing compared to that in Remember Last Night. This has to be some sort of attempt to knock off Nick and Nora and their drinking sprees from the Thin Man movies. They even adapted a book called "The Hang Over Murders" in the search for sophisticated authenticity. Robert Young plays the lead and is no William Powell. Constance Cummings plays his wife and is no Myrna Loy.   As has been seen this week. masters like Wyler and Stahl had absorbed the demands of sound. Whale was clunking along in their wake...The beautiful 35mm copy was a sight to behold....

Yukio Mishima
Some five years ago Bologna took its first steps towards discovering much that was virtually unknown about the Japanese cinema. Curated by Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordstrom, the series has continued since, with the last two years concentrating on early Japanese colour films. In a way such a process allows the eye to be taken off the quality in favour of films with an element of curiosity thanks to them being shot in colour. I can't help feeling the series has lost its way a little,  a view perhaps reflected in the modest numbers now showing up for the screenings. I can see that the approach is anti-auteurist and that the selection has all sorts of nuance. There was for instance on the last day possibly the first screening ever outside Japan of Natsuko No Boken/Natsuko's adventures in Hokkaido (Noboro Nakamura, Japan, 1953) believed to be the first adaptation of the literary work of Yukio Mishima. I can't say it served the author well but the curiosity value is large....

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