Jolly Cinema > 18:15


Teinosuke Kinugasa
Introduced by

Mika Tomita (National Film Archive of Japan)

Piano accompaniment by

Gabriel Thibaudeau and violin accompaniment by Silvia Mandolini 


Sunday 25/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Kinugasa’s most celebrated film is an avant-garde classic exceptional in his career.  He had already directed more than 30 commercial narrative films, almost none of which survive today. Kurutta ichipeiji itself survived by chance; Kinugasa rediscovered the original 35mm print of the film in his shed in 1971. Since then, the film has only been seen in black and white copies. This restoration recreates the blue tinting of its original release.
In his autobiography, Kinugasa wrote that Kurutta ichipeiji was made to fulfill “the strong urge to make just once the kind of film I wanted to create free from anyone’s control”. Independently produced, albeit with some financial support from Shochiku and the use of their studio space in Kyoto, Kurutta ichipeiji was based on a premise by acclaimed novelist Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972), who went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. In 1926 he was an emerging talent; his breakthrough novella, Izu no odoriko (The Izu Dancer), was serialised that same year. He collaborated with a team of screenwriters on this story about the guiltridden husband of a madwoman who takes a job as a janitor in an asylum to be near her.
In the context of a Japanese cinema still substantially committed to narrative transparency and popular forms, Kurutta ichipeiji was a revolutionary work. Like such German Kammerspiel films as Lupu Pick’s Scherben (1921) and Sylvester (1923) and F.W. Murnau’s Der letzte Mann (1924), it eschewed intertitles, relating its narrative through images alone. More radically than those precursors, whose stories are relatively simple and transparent, it opted for a profoundly ambiguous approach which hovers on the edge of legibility. Aaron Gerow writes of the film’s “doubling of past and present, reality and illusion”, which often makes it challenging for the viewer to distinguish between subjective and objective elements.
Kurutta ichipeiji was acclaimed as a landmark in Japanese cinema. In “Kinema Junpo”, critic Akira Iwasaki hailed it as “the first filmlike film made in Japan”, and celebrated a beauty that “is neither theatrical nor novelistic nor painterly; it is cinematic beauty”. Jun’ichiro Tanaka, in the “Hochi Shinbun” newspaper, proclaimed it “the preeminent guidebook for the trip to cinema’s future essence”.

Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström

The aim of this restoration was to reconstruct the original 35mm nitrate print (blue tinting, 1,617 metres) of Kurutta ichipeiji that Teinosuke Kinugasa discovered in the storehouse of his Kyoto home in 1971. The sound version (1,609 metres) that was subsequently produced under Kinugasa’s supervision not only altered the frame rate but also removed the blue tinting. These have now been restored along with the portion of the image lost due to the soundtrack and a missing part of the opening credits. Two source elements were used for the restoration: (1) a black-and-white internegative created when the nitrate print was first discovered, used for the main portion of the film, and (2) a black-and-white internegative struck from the nitrate print in fiscal 2002, used to restore the cast credit cut from the original internegative. A new print was made from these elements and then manually tinted, which represented the biggest challenge. The pale blue of the original was recreated with the tinting on the edges of the nitrate print serving as the point of reference.

Alo Jõekalda

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Yasunari Kawabata. Scen.: Yasunari Kawabata, Teinosuke Kinugasa, Minoru Inuzuka, Banko Sawada. F.: Kohei Sugiyama. Scgf.: Chiyo Ozaki, Kasaku Hayashi. Int.: Masao Inoue (inserviente), Yoshie Nakagawa (sua moglie), Ayako Iijima (sua figlia), Hiroshi Nemoto (giovane uomo), Misao Seki (dottore), Minoru Takase (primo pazzo), Kyosuke Takamatsu (secondo pazzo), Tsuboi Tetsu (terzo pazzo), Eiko Minami (danzatrice), Shintaro Takiguchi (ragazzo). Prod.: Kinugasa Eiga Renmei. 35mm. L.: 1617 m. D.: 79’ a 18 f/s. Col. (tinted).


International Title
Demon Thistle
Italian Title
[Il cardo del demonio]
Director: Teinosuke Kinugasa
Year: 1927
Country: Giappone
Running time: 14'
Film Version

Serbo-Croatian intertitles