Carmen Comes Home
This musical comedy tells the story of a Tokyo exotic dancer who returns to her hometown in rural Nagano prefecture in grand fashion. She causes a stir frolicking in revealing outfits and a scandal ensues when her family (and the rest of the town) discover the truth about her profession.
This monumental motion picture is Japan’s first colour feature film and is ranked as one of the most successful, widely-beloved musical comedies that Japan has ever produced.
About the director
Universally considered one of Japan’s greatest directors, Keisuke Kinoshita worked almost his entire career for Shochiku, the studio that also housed Yasujiro Ozu. Shochiku was devoted to what the Japanese call shomin-geki, stories of everyday life; while Ozu developed a rigorous, austere style that he perfected from film to film, Kinoshita was constantly changing and challenging himself to adapt to new subject matters and ways of storytelling.
Kinoshita experimented with A Japanese Tragedy, a bold work whose jumbled timeframe and insertion of newsreel footage anticipated the modernist films of the Sixties. He made use of traditional Japanese art forms such as kabuki in The Ballad of Narayama, brush painting in The River Fuefuki, and just as easily indulged in a steamy melodrama, Woman.
A major theme that runs through his work is the loss of innocence: one character, usually the protagonist, faces up to the harsh realities of the world. This emphasis on the individual with the ability to make his own choices, lent the early post-war films a progressive tone. However, one could sense the darkening of Kinoshita’s vision as he moved into the Sixties. An early proponent for change in Japan, Kinoshita was clearly a man in conflict with his country. This is evident from his final masterpiece, the remarkable The Scent of Incense.
Kinoshita was also known to elicit the best from his actors, and several—Kinuyo Tanaka, Hideo Takamine, Yuko Mochizuki, Keiji Sata—gave some of their greatest performances in his films.
Source: Film Society of Lincoln Center
Film and Restoration
Shot in colour Fujicolor film stock, Carmen Comes Home features joyful episodes and satirical descriptions in the gorgeous Japanese landscapes accompanied by distinguished actors Chishu Ryu, and the golden age actress Hideko Takamine, who plays the title role. The mountainous setting, one of the film’s highlights, dictated specific practical requirements, since the colour process was judged to produce a better image quality in natural light.
Ironically, few Japanese audiences saw the film in colour at its premiere, as the process of creating a print for screening was so expensive and time-consuming. While the film enjoyed a big commercial success, only 11 colour prints were produced in time, and a few of them were chosen to be shown in selected film theatres in major cities. Most rural cinemas screened a black and white version that had been shot simultaneously.
During the production, scenes were first shot in Fujicolor, then repeated and shot in black and white. This was a gruelling process for the actors who not only had to shoot every scene twice, but had to constantly reapply their makeup to ensure skin tones appeared natural on both colour and black and white film.
The original nitrate positive was severely shrunken and the reels showed different degrees of fading. An internegative was made to produce a colour positive in 1975 and at that time, a sound negative was made to synchronise it onto the final print. The latest restoration was carried out by IMAGICA with support from the Japan Foundation, using the 1975 copy made by Shochiku. The restored film premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.
Alexander Jacoby and Johan Nordström (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2016)
Hisashi Okajima (Journal of Film Preservation)