[La nave fantasma] · Mus.: Kozaburo Hirai. Prod.: Noburo Ofuji · 35mm. Col.
Noburo Ofuji (1900-1961) was one of the pioneers of Japanese animation, with a career that stretched back to the silent era. His importance is reflected to this day in a prize awarded in his name at the Mainichi Film Awards. Working at his own independent production company, he made cut-out, silhouette and cel animations, and began to explore the potential of colour cinematography in the prewar era with some experimental films in Kodacolor. These two postwar shorts, filmed respectively in the domestic Fujicolor and Konicolor processes, illustrate his facility with the new medium. With Whale, Ofuji remade his own 1927 film about three men, cast adrift after a shipwreck, fighting for the only surviving woman. He used shadow puppets and colour cellophane to create a film which was screened at Cannes in 1953, apparently winning praise from jury president Jean Cocteau and festival guest Pablo Picasso. A few years later, The Phantom Ship, again used colour cellophane to narrate the story of a ghostly crew of pirates in the Yellow Sea. Eschewing dialogue and narration, it is an exercise in pure cinema. The film was also screened in Europe, earning an Honourable Mention for Experimental Film at Venice in 1956. Catherine Munroe Hotes calls it “truly a spectacular film, and one of the top animated shorts of 1956”.