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Orochi + short films

A Japanese swordsman.
April 20, 2024 - 3:00 pm
Live narration by benshi Ichirō Kataoka, Kumiko Ōmori and Hideyuki Yamashiro.

Admission is free. No advance reservations. Your seat will be assigned to you when you pick up your ticket at the box office. Seats are assigned on a first come, first served basis. The box office opens one hour before the event.

The Dull Sword

Namakura Gatana, Japan, 1917

An overly confident samurai looks for unsuspecting victims on which to try out his new sword but neither his targets nor his weapon prove willing to play along. The Dull Sword is the oldest known surviving example of moving image anime, simply drawn but highly expressive in its satirical take on period genre conventions.

DCP, silent, tinted, 5 min. Director: Junichi Kōchi. DCP courtesy of the National Film Archive of Japan.

An Unforgettable Grudge

Japan, 1926

Only the final reel of this samurai melodrama from director Daisuke Itō survives today, which is enough to suggest the enormity of the loss. An Edo-set story of samurai brothers who fall in love with the same woman, it culminates with a ferocious sword fight between the spurned brother and an army of warriors, as action-packed a film fragment as you’re ever likely to see.

DCP, silent, tinted, 15 min. Director: Daisuke Itō. Screenwriter: With: Daisuke Itō. Denjirō Ōkōchi Yayoi Kawakami, Yuzuru Kume. DCP courtesy of the National Film Archive of Japan.

Blood Spattered Takadanobaba

Chikemuri Takadanobaba, Japan, 1928

Star Denjirō Ōkōchi and director Daisuke Itō helped remake the chambara (sword-fighting film) genre in the late 1920s, infusing it with visual flash and mythic power. Sadly, the films of theirs that survive exist mostly in fragmentary form. Such is the case with Blood Spattered Takadanobaba. In this brief scene, the rōnin Yasube comes home drunk to a letter from his uncle requesting assistance fighting off a band of villainous samurai. Yasube races to his uncle’s side and joins the battle already in violent progress! So that audiences can experience more directly how a benshi’s specific style can influence a film, Blood Spattered Takadanobaba will be repeated over the course of this series with a different benshi narrating each time.

Please note: This title will play twice as part of this program with separate benshi performing each time. 

DCP, b&w, silent, intertitles in Japanese with English subtitles, 12min. Director/Screenwriter: Daisuke Itō. Cast: Denjirō Ōkōchi, En'ichirō Jitsukawa, Harue Ichikawa. DCP courtesy of the Toy Film Museum.


Japan, 1925

Tsumasaburō Bandō, one of Japan’s earliest screen idols, plays a masterless samurai, forced to become a gangster’s bodyguard in this dazzling jidaigeki (period drama). Japanese film critic Junichiro Tanaka praised it in the pages of Kinema Junpo in 1952, particularly its bravura, climactic chase scene, in which the “cinematic beauty of light, shadow, and movement flows into the screen along with Tsumasaburo’s sword fighting.”

DCP, b&w, silent with Japanese intertitles, 101 min. Director: Buntarō Futagawa. Screenwriter: Rokuhei Susukita. Cast: Tsumasaburō Bandō, Misao Seki, Misao Tamaki.