Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan, 1930)
(Fujiwara Yoshie no furusato). Hometown is not only the great Kenji Mizoguchi’s first sound film, it’s also one of the first sound films ever made in Japan, produced by Nikkatsu as a test in 1929. The popular classical-music tenor Yoshie Fujiwara was cast as a singer who returns home from a trip abroad and must repair his relationship with his devoted wife. As in the pioneering The Jazz Singer, the film highlights the unwieldly new technology of sound mainly through song numbers, selling audiences the opportunity to actually hear Fujiwara singing. How to record—or even say—dialogue, however, still needed to be understood, and Hometown represents Mizoguchi’s—and Japanese cinema’s—first intriguing steps towards tackling the problem.
• Written by Iwao Mori, Toshi Kisaragi, Shuichi Hatamoto. Photographed by Tatsuyuki Yokata. With Yoshie Fujiwara, Shizue Natsukawa, Fujiko Hamaguchi, Isamu Kosugi. (86 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, permission Nikkatsu)