Talking The Pictures / Katsuben!

By Suo Masayuki

Japan | In Japanese with English subtitles | 2019 | 126 min 27 sec | PG (Some Sexual References)

Before the advent of synchronised sound technology that led to the first “talking pictures,” most silent films were accompanied by live music. In Japan, live narration was provided by the katsudo shashin benshi (‘motion picture speaker’ in Japanese), or benshi. These vocal performers mediated between the narratives of world cinema and the tastes of local audiences, and were immensely popular. Talking the Pictures is a joyful tribute to these artists of the silent era.

This coming-of-age comedy follows Shuntaro Someya, a petty thief from the streets who dreams of becoming a famous benshi like his idol Shusei Yamaoka. Unfortunately, life doesn’t go his way but he eventually ends up taking on odd jobs in a small town movie theatre. Shuntaro has to deal with the boss and his slave-driver wife, a cantankerous projectionist, as well as the other eccentric vocal performers. The situation comes to a head when his childhood sweetheart reappears in town just as his thieving past catches up with him. Will Shuntaro be able to avert the biggest crisis of his life and finally fulfil his dream of becoming a benshi?

Talking the Pictures premiered at Busan International Film Festival (2019), and has been screened at numerous film festivals, including the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival in 2019.

The screening on 2 July is reserved for Gallery Insiders and invited guests. This film is also available for online viewing in Singapore, during the festival period 2-25 July 2021.

Suo Masayuki (b. 1956, Japan) is a director and screenwriter whose films have been hits both in Japan and abroad. His films include Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t (1992), which won numerous awards including Best Film at the 16th Japan Academy Film Awards, and Shall We Dance? (1996) which won in 13 categories at the 20th Japan Academy Film Awards. The latter was released globally and inspired a Hollywood remake in 2005. In 2016, Masayuki received the Shiju Hosho (Medal of Honour with the Purple Ribbon) from the Japanese government for his contributions to the film industry.

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