Scen.: Kesshu Tsukuda. F.: Sukeshige Urushiyama. Int.: Matsunosuke Fukui (Shotaro Saeki), Kuni Sugiura (la madre), Hoshiko Tachibana (Oyoshi, la fidanzata), Fumio Wakamatsu (Takasugi), Shizuko Takazawa (Tokiko, la moglie), Fumiyo Kyomachi (Mieko, la sorella). Prod.: Dainihon Tennenshoku Eiga Seisakujo (Greater Japan Natural Color Productions). DCP. Col
This early Japanese colour film, rediscovered in an incomplete print at Moscow’s Gosfilmofond archive, focuses on a boatman whose relationships with his mother and fiancee are disrupted when he is conscripted to fight in China. The title comes from the metre-long belt composed of a thousand stitches which the hero’s grandmother begins to prepare for him. The film is a memento of bellicose times, made in the year when Japan, which had already annexed Manchuria, launched a full-scale war with China.
Senninbari was the third film produced by the production company Dai Nihon Tennenshoku Eiga Seisakujo (Greater Japan Natural Color Productions), a pioneer of colour cinema in Japan. It is the oldest surviving Japanese colour talkie, made using a two-colour system. Dai Nihon Tennenshoku Eiga Seisakujo was the first production company to adopt the Multicolor process, known as ‘Shanghai color’ at the time. On the film’s release, the “Kinema Junpo” reviewer praised the improvement in the process by comparison with the studio’s first film, Tsukigata Hanpeita (Seika Shiba, 1937), but suggested that the work was lacking in dramatic terms. Director Genjiro Saegusa (b. 1900), is today little-known even in Japan. A contemporary at Nikkatsu of Kenji Mizoguchi, he worked prolifically through the silent era and remained active into the 1950s. His date of death is unknown. David Bordwell speaks of the echoes of French impressionist cinema and Soviet-style montage in his Gunshin Tachibana chusa (Lieutenant Colonel Tachibana, 1926), while his stylish rediscovered action film, Tokkyu sanbyaku mairu (Special Express: 300 Miles, 1928) was well received at screenings in Italy and Germany in recent years.
It did not prove possible to ship the original material, a nitrate color positive held at Gosfilmofond, to Japan, so a 4K version was produced in Russia and used as the basis for a new method of digital restoration conducted in collaboration with the production companies, IMAGICA Corp and IMAGICA West Corp. By analyzing the data resulting from photochemical simulations at IMAGICA West, it was possible to determine the colour range that the two-colour system could not reproduce, keep that range from being picked up in colour grading, and thereby retrieve the colour of Senninbari.