The Tokyo International Film Festival, beginning on October 22, will screen three movies of the Japanese master, Kon Ichikawa, to celebrate the centennial of his birth. He died in 2008.
One of the three films will be Enjo (Conflagration). Made in 1958, the movie was based on a famous novel by Yukio Mishima, the work of fiction in turn inspired by true incident. In a digitally-restored 4K print, the film will narrate the story of a disturbed novice monk who set fire to the Temple of Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. This religious and cultural treasure was razed to the ground, and the movie, one of the best in Ichikawa’s ouevre, examines the consequences of a private sin and how they lead to horrific crimes.
The festival will also present one of Ichikawa’s rarely-exhibited documentary, Japan and the Japanese, made in 1970. The third work will be Yowamushi Chinsengumi, a 1935 animated short assumed lost till a print turned up in 2014.
Incidentally, Ichikawa -- who was born on 1915 -- began his film career in 1946 with an animated feature on a puppet play, A Girl at Dojo Temple. This was banned by the occupying American forces, who felt that it was “too feudal”.
After Inchikawa’s marriage to Natto Wada in 1948, his career began to fly. Wada wrote screenplays -- most of which were adaptations. And Ichikawa filmed them. Some of his most celebrated movies came with this association. One of them was the classic, Tokyo Olympiad. Others like The Burmese Harp, Fires on the Plain and An Actor’s Revenge won Ichikawa international recognition.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran will cover the Tokyo International Film Festival.)