Fujiwara Yoshie No Furusato

Kenji Mizoguchi

T. int.: Hometown [Paese natale]. Sog.: Iwao Mori. Scen.: Shuichi Hatamoto. F.: Yoshio Mineo, Tatsuyuki Yokota. Scgf.: Torazo Enomoto, Takeo Kita. Mu.: Toyoaki Tanaka. Su: Toshio Narumi. Int.: Yoshie Fujiwara (Fujimura), Shizue Natsukawa (Ayako), Isamu Kosugi (Higuchi), Kunio Tamora (Sankichi), Heitaro Doi (Hattori), Hirotoshi Murata (Misao Sato), Fujiko Hamaguchi (Natsue Omura), Takako Irie (l’operaio). Prod.: Nikkatsu (Uzumasa) 35mm. D.: 86’ a 21 f/s. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Hometown was the first sound film both of its director, Kenji Mizoguchi, and of his studio, Nikkatsu. Lacking sound record­ing facilities and technical knowhow, the studio co-produced the film with Yoshizo Minagawa’s Mina Talkie, which had re­alised its first sound feature, Taii no mu­sume (The Captain’s Daughter), the year before. At Nikkatsu, a key role in the films production was played by the modernis­ing think tank Friday Society (Kinyokai), a group of writers, critics, filmmakers and exhibitors, and in particular by critic and theorist Iwao Mori, later to become the head of Japan’s first all-talkie produc­tion company, P.C.L. (later Toho). Mori planned the film, conceived the story, and assisted in the writing of the script. He also convinced Yoshie Fujiwara, a European-trained tenor who was the lead­ing Japanese opera singer of the time, to play the lead role, and decided, due to the technological limitations of the sound recording equipment, to structure the film as a part-talkie.
The film’s hybrid form is probably re­sponsible for the mobility of the camera in the scenes shot silent, which contrasts sharply with the static qualities of numer­ous very early sound films both in Japan and elsewhere. This ‘silent-cinematic mo­bility’ was praised by contemporary crit­ics, with Tadashi Iijima writing that “[Ho­metown‘s authors] made a part-talkie in order to get used to the talkie, and not destroy the techniques of silent cinema. [This attitude] resulted in the successful elements of Hometown. In other words, this film is free from the ugly fixity of the scenes characteristic of the early talkies. It is fluid like a silent film”.
The film self-consciously explores the rich potential of the new medium, especially in the use of the title song as performed by Fujiwara. The star’s fame, coupled with the novelty of sound, helped to win a lim­ited degree of commercial success and some favourable reviews for this entertain­ing melodrama. However, Mori himself was disappointed, believing that changes to the script by Mizoguchi and writer Shu­ichi Hatamoto had destroyed the film’s in­tended musical focus. Mizoguchi too was dissatisfied with the film, feeling that he had failed to achieve his aims. Following this film, he was to return to silent film­making for several years, and would not switch fully to sound until 1935.
Nevertheless, the film retains its fasci­nation, and the use of sound is certainly creative. As Mark LeFanu writes, “the soundtrack brings Tokyo to life. There is a fine sense of documentary immediacy […] As in many films on the cusp of the silent era, sound is used here with an experimen­tal confidence – a verve, a bravura – that was subsequently lost as sound movies ‘naturalised’ themselves by concentrating merely on registering dialogue clearly”.

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The soundtrack has undergone noise reduction