KINEJAPAN digest 615 (Ozu silent's soundtrack)

Michael E Kerpan Jr kerpan
Mon Dec 10 19:26:48 EST 2001

Jonah Horwitz wrote asked me:

> Why the scare quotes . . . ? 

(when describing the European classics-derived soundtrack that appears 
on the Facets release of Ozu's Tokyo no onna).

Because, by and large, the soundtrack comes across as over-wrought.

> Facets has pretty high quality control, though, so I wonder if they've 
> done a better job than most in this regard. 

I  like Facets, by and large. ;~]  But they have done some wretched 
things with soundtracks to silent films. The most horrible (I know of) 
was their inappropriate soundtrack to Kozintsev's and Trauberg's New 
Babylon, which was a concoction made up of Chopin piano music.  New 
Babyon is important in film history (among other things) because it was 
the first Soviet film which attempted to use a synchronized musical 
soundtrack (albeit without dialog) -- and the music by Dmitri 
Shostakovich was an integral part of the design of the film. 
 Consequently, Facet's release was an essentially a work of artistic 

> Would there have been a live "soundtrack" performed alongside the film 
> in its original exhibition (apart from the benshi)?  What might it 
> have sounded like? 

Richie mentions a "soundtrack (music and effects)".   As I understand 
it, this was recorded onto phonograph records that were to be played 
along with the film. I presume this was intended to preempt benshi 
participation (or was it simply available to be used in benshi-less 
venues -- if there were such).  Somehow I suspect that the "classical" 
soundtrack used by Facets is not the original.  I too would like to know 
what the original was like. (I wonder if the Shochiku release contains 
the original soundtrack).

Michael Kerpan
Boston, MA

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