The Water Magician

Also known as White Threads of the Waterfall, this 1933 film by the sublime Kenji Mizoguchi is one of his two silent features to have survived intact. The plot concerns a female entertainer, whose act involves juggling jets of water, and her romantic relationship with a shy young man; years later the man has become a judge and presides over her trial for murder. A major reason why sound films came later to Japan than to almost everywhere else was the figure of the benshithe explainer of silent films who acted out all the parts and added commentary of his or her own, and whose popularity with Japanese audiences was such that they often went to hear and see their favorite benshi rather than their favorite film star. In the new subtitled print that will be shown, the sound track features music as well as narration by the late Shunsui Matsuda, one of the most acclaimed of the benshi perfomers. (JR)

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