Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
Students of Japanese film lore will be overjoyed to encounter this documentary, which closely explores the life and film career of the actor Tsumasaburo Bando. It was made in 1979 by Shunsui Masuda but was only released on his death. Masuda was one of the last men to earn his living as a Benshi, narrating the stories of silent films and mouthing the lines for the actors. Noted Japanese film critic and historian Tadao Sato scripted the commentary and conducted numerous interviews with family, friends, and professional associates of the actor, whose career began in the silent film era with his role in Kosuzumetoge in 1924 and ended prematurely in 1953 with his appearance in Abare Shishi. Working as his own producer as early as 1925, the actor brought his own innovations to samurai battle scenes and contributed mightily to the development of jidai-geki, or historical pageants. Scenes from over a dozen of the actor's films are screened, and in one memorable scene, choreographer Ryu Kuze demonstrates noteworthy elements in Bando's staging of battle scenes.