Saturday, April 16, 2016

Twilight Saloon (Tomu Uchida, 1955)

If you're one of the thousands (millions?) who have fallen in love with Terence Davies' Distant Voices, Still Lives, then you ought to check out Twilight Saloon. Confined to a saloon from open to close one evening, the narrative follows the lives of various patrons and employees and some viewers will no doubt disdain the telegraphed stories and hastily wrapped up conclusions. But the real drama here is musical. Twilight Saloon is choked with songs - folk songs, pop songs, military songs, workers' protest songs, arias. Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair," a record of Josef Marais' (I think) take on "Brandy, Leave Me Alone" (and allusion to the "Whiskey, Laisse-moi Tranquille" scene in Hawks' The Big Sky?), a story-turning "Toreador Song," Japanese music about which I'm ignorant, etc. It's about what we do with songs, how they insinuate themselves into our lives, how they police the distinction between professional and amateur, how they signal disappointment, hope, rage, lust, justice, resignation. I absolutely adored it and kudos once again to Michael Raine for programming it at Japan Society's Japan Sings! series.

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