Tuesday, 18 September 2012

To Sleep So As To Dream

It was a rare treat to watch this obscure 80s print under the high vaulted ceiling of London's Cinema Museum as part of this year's Zipangufest. In truth, it's a slight and whimsical piece of work, but sitting there surrounded by movie memorabilia, watching a flickering 16mm projection (complete with mid-film reel change!) made it seem quite special.

The format was apposite: To Sleep So As To Dream is an homage both to the Japanese silent cinema of the 20s and also 50s Film Noir. It centres around an aging actress who hires a hard-boiled (egg-eating) detective and his eager sidekick to find her missing daughter, Bellflower. Since they have nothing better to do, Uotsuka and Kobayashi embark on a gentle mystery tour in search of the elusive Bellflower - who is apparently trapped within an old silent samurai film without ending.

I'm sure it's partly down to my lack of knowledge of Japanese silent cinema (many references no doubt missed), but it's easy to see why To Sleep So As To Dream has been consigned to the celluloid wilderness. It has a very small potential audience and given any other setting I would probably have lost patience with it myself, but Saturday afternoon at the Cinema Museum turned out to be the perfect backdrop for this sleepy nostalgia trip.

Dir. Kaizo Hayashi, 1986


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