Pistol Opera -- Opening Day

Arnold M ma_iku
Mon Oct 29 20:26:24 EST 2001

Hello everybody.

Last Saturday I made it to the opening day of the new Suzuki film, Pistol 
Opera.  Two staff & cast appearances were scheduled that day; one after the 
11:35 showing at Teatoru Shinjuku, and another after a later show in 
Shibuya.  I decided to go to Shinjuku.  Pia said that numbered entrance 
tickets would be passed out at Teatoru Shinjuku starting at 9 a.m. that 
morning, and signs posted at the theater said the same thing, so I arrived 
about 8:50... and to my surprise there was nobody there.  I asked the young 
woman at the counter and she did give me a number--#218, out of 218 seats 
available.  I guess they started passing the tickets out early.  Anyway I 
got some coffee, came back around 11:00 and waited in line.  I got to 
listen to the recorded advertisement for the neighboring crab restaurant 
probably 100 times as they called out the numbers to let people in.  I 
think tickets went up to about 300.  

It was obviously a full house.  When I finally got in I was one of the last 
people to get a seat, way in the back.  After that people started filling 
up the empty space around the seats, in the aisles and along the walls.  
The theater staff passed out cushions for people to sit on the floor.  Does 
Japan still have any sort of fire regulations for crowds in movie theaters 
and the like?  I was reading Richie & Anderson's "The Japanese Film" the 
other day and they said yes, but they're never enforced...

When the film was over Suzuki Seijun, Esumi Makiko, Nagase Masatoshi and a 
few other staff/cast came up on stage.  Suzuki made the only interesting 
comment.  He said that he's a senile old man now and, "I can't even 
remember this movie.  Something-or-other Opera?  What is it about anyway?"

Otherwise, Teatoru Shinjuku again proved their professional skill in 
ruining a screening.  Not too long into the movie after one of the reel 
changes, the projection moved off target by about 1/3.  The bottom 1/3 of 
the picture was stuck on the top of the screen.  That was fixed within a 
minute or so though.  Then about half way through the film, starting around 
the point of the 12-year old girl's nude scene in the bath house, the 
picture slipped again.  This time the bottom 10 percent or so of the 
picture was cut off, and there was a thick black bar on the top of the 
screen.  Sometimes a thin line of color--what should have been the very 
bottom of the frame--flickered on the top.  The picture remained like this 
throughout the last half of the movie.  There were a few scenes later in 
the film in English with Japanese subtitles, and when there were two lines 
of subs you could read the top line, but when there was only one line of 
subs it was lost except for a few faint white dots.  In a couple of scenes 
you could see stuff that was supposed to be cut off the screen--a tripod at 
the top of the long staircase Noraneko climbs up, and microphones sticking 
down into the frame during the older Sayoko's monologue about flags and 
Kinoshita's Carmen movie.  In the last scene, two of the characters are 
supposed to have a dramatic shoot out, framed on the very bottom of the 
screen in front of Mt. Fuji, but they were mostly cut off.  

I couldn't get out of my seat during the movie since it was so crowded, so 
after the butai aisatsu when everyone was let out, I walked up to a 
managerial-looking fellow at the front and told him that the picture was 
off for half the movie.  He apologized very briefly, called another 
employee over and that guy apologized to me too... and they said "we'll be 
more careful next time."  They seemed to be content to be irresponsible so 
I just left it at that.  I talked to a few Japanese friends later that day 
and one guy told me that the standard in such cases is to give "invitation 
tickets" to the audience in compensation.  The other fellow said that he 
went to a screening of a Kurosawa movie once when the projection was bad, 
and the lights came up, Kurosawa actually came out on stage, apologized to 
the audience and then started the movie again from the beginning.  I 
realize that with a full day of screenings it would have been a little 
difficult for Teatoru Shinjuku to start the movie over, but aside from my 
minor complaint they did a fairly good job of ignoring the problem.  My 
friends both said, and I agree, that at a first day showing with the 
director present, such an obvious screw up should be inexcusable.

Anyway the projection problems distracted me so much that I didn't really 
pay attention to the story, so I decided to see the movie one more time on 
Monday morning.  On the way in I bought a copy of the new Scenario 
magazine, which has the script for both Pistol Opera and Zigeunerweisen.  I 
read along to the dim light of my cell phone as I watched the movie.  Very 
interesting.  The projection was all right this time around, but every once 
in a while someone in the projection booth would turn on a light, and it 
lit up the theater just enough to notice...

I'll try to give more comments on the film a little later.

Michael Arnold

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