Tamura's Eureka

mark schilling schill
Mon May 16 09:07:33 EDT 2005

Thanks to Jasper for the plug for the Udine Nikkatsu Action retro. The
festival organization, Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche, is planning to
list the book I wrote for the retro, "No Border, No Limits: The World of
Nikkatsu Action," with Amazon and other online booksellers. Contents include
a history of the Nikkatsu studio (with an emphasis on its action product),
profiles of actors and directors and interviews with Masuda Toshio and
Shishido Jo. It's heavily illustrated with both black-and-white stills and
color posters, most courtesy of Nikkatsu. The text is in both Italian and

I had a chance to speak with Tamura the night he arrived in Udine and then
again at dinner the following evening. He told me the same anecdote about
"Eureka" he told Mark, probably in much the same words. My son, though,
spent far more time with him, serving as interpreter and general factotum. I
ought to ask him what Tamura's employment situation is like -- though as
Jasper mentioned, he could spend only a short time in Udine due to work

I liked the idea of inviting him and two other cinematographers to Udine to
discuss their work. Rather than have all three sitting together answering
mostly general questions, however, I wish the moderators had given Tamura
and the others the floor for one hour each, so they could be more specific
about their individual philosophies and methods.

I do understand that 20 minutes is too short for much more than sound
bites -- which is fine for the general entertainment press, but not for
those with a serious interest in the interviewee's films. I'm not sure what
the solution is, given the reluctance of many guests (including Shishido,
Masuda and Tamura) to subject themselves to media questions for hours on

Mark Schilling
schill at gol.com

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "J.sharp" <j.sharp at hpo.net>
To: <KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
Sent: Monday, May 16, 2005 6:16 PM
Subject: Re: Tamura's Eureka

That's interesting. I wonder how Wakamatsu and Adachi managed this feat with
so little fuss? The sort of thing a new generation of DV filmmakers aren't
going to need to concern themselves with.
I recently spoke to Tamura at the Udine Far East Film Festival, an event
which I should warn any potential journalist is far better for watching
movies than it is for interviewing guests - you get on average of 20 minutes
to fire off your questions, which is hardly enough to go anywhere
significant with your line of questioning.
Still, I am surprised no one here has so far mentioned the marvelous
Nikkatsu Action program that Mark Schilling put together, but this was a
marvelous opportunity to see the works of the studio in the 60s put into
some sort of context - with a Jo Shishido Western being but one of the
highpoints among such amazing titles as A COLT IS MY PASSPORT and GANGSTER
Anyway, I digress. Basically I only spoke to Tamura for about 30mins and he
looked fairly jetlagged and confused, having been flown in for Udine for
only one day - apparently in the middle of a project, so he is still working
at least. He wasn't exactly evasive with his answers, but certainly not the
most forthcoming interviewee. I remember his wry chuckle when I mentioned
that Ogawa must have been a charismatic man, but other than that, he didn't
really say anything of interest.
What surprised me though when I actually took a detailed look at his filmog
before his Udine retrospective was just how diverse it his. I always think
of Tamura for "muddy" works like Magino Village or Suzuka, not vibrantly
colored fantasies like Lady Snowblood or Evil Dead Trap.
I think he has shot quite a few films recently the jmdb hasn't mentioned.
There's been all these hour-long Aoyama works recently, but I also remember
a seeing a film recently called MY EASY-GOING SISTER, directed by
first-timer, Kei Shichiri, based on a TV adaptation of Mori Ogai's novel
"Sanshodayu" written by Juro Kara. Not sure what happened to this one, but I
don't think it was ever released in Japan.


Midnight Eye: The Latest and Best in Japanese Cinema


Out Now from Stone Bridge Press:
The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film by Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp
Foreword by Hideo Nakata

--------- Original Message --------
From: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
To: KineJapan <KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
Subject: Tamura's Eureka
Date: 15/05/05 03:36

> I dropped by a favorite watering whole in Kabuki-cho last night only to
> find Tamura Masaki sitting there, drunk and lonely. It had been a while
> since we'd spoken, so we chatted about all sorts of things----trying
> our best to avoid the subject of Ogawa Pro, something neither of us
> seems to be able to avoid.
> I mentioned to Tamura that KineJapan had some discussion about the
> color scheme of Eureka, but that I don't remember if it was resolved or
> not. He was delighted to set the record straight. It's clearly
> something he's supremely proud of.
> When director Aoyama told him he wanted to shoot in black and white,
> yet have the last scene shift to color, Tamura told him it was
> impossible. I pointed out that was hardly true, and cited the examples
> from any number of films---say by Wakamatsu and Adachi.
> Tamura scoffed, "They didn't know what they were doing, and didn't
> care. It can't be done." He explained that, first, you'd have to use
> two kinds of film stock, black and white and color, and this would
> necessitate splicing the two sections together. This wouldn't look
> good. Perhaps you could have a unique reel just for the color, but it
> was so short that it wasn't practical.
> Then he explained that the main reason had to do with the thickness of
> the film stock, and having a separate reel for the color wouldn't take
> care of the consequences. Black and White and Color are different
> thicknesses, and thus require a focus shift during projection. This
> would have to be done on the fly, and needless to say this shift to
> color was at a crucial moment in the film. Even the best projectionist
> would require distracting fiddling with focus.
> So Tamura suggested shooting in black and white, but printing in color.
> He did many tests, and both he and Aoyama loved the results. Tamura
> studied the effects, tweaking lighting and camera until he had a sense
> of control. They shot, printed everything on color, and then found
> something else out. The labs simply didn't have experience with this,
> and so they had little control over the results. Tamura found that
> every print was different. He didn't like the first one. They sent the
> second one to Cannes. He thinks the third print they struck was the
> best, at least that's his memory of it.
> It sounds like he hasn't been working much lately. What a waste of one
> of Japan's great cinematographers.
> Markus

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