[KineJapan] Benshi performance advice

Markus Nornes nornes at umich.edu
Mon Feb 4 17:17:07 EST 2019

I have programmed lots of benshi here, including a whole season of silent
Ozu while Ichiro was a visiting artist one year.

I wouldn't recommend simultaneous.

The best is when there is a subtitled setsumei onscreen. I know Ichiro has
some. I am pretty sure that Matsuda Eigasha does as well.  I don't know
about the others.

Someone told me that they have tried soft titling the setsumei and then
projected the translation below the screen. But in both cases, as Aaron
points out, it's not going to be perfect.

I have also done some films that have only subtitled inter titles, which is
how they are usually shown. No one knows what the benshi is really doing if
they can't understand Japanese, but they still love the live performance.

For non-subtitled prints, I have handed out plot synopses, underlining key
cues so audiences can follow important plot points.

Again, the live performance is so wonderful that audiences are happy no
matter what.

Music is important. I've used a number of strategies.

I have had a local composer create a score for a small ensemble, had the
same composer do a solo performance, had a local jazz fanatic and local
radio jockey DJ a film using period 78s, and simply chosen an appropriate
style of music on a CD and bounced around through the film.

Live is ideal. If you or anyone else wanted to bring out the band that I've
worked with, they have amazing scores for I Was Born, But and Page of
Madness. It's a toy band (Little Bang Theory), so all the instruments are
toys. But the composer is a famous experimental musician. It's totally



*Markus Nornes*
*Professor of Asian Cinema*
Department of Film, Television and Media, Department of Asian Languages and
Cultures, Penny Stamps School of Art & Design

*Department of Film, Television and Media*
*6348 North Quad*
*105 S. State Street*
*Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1285*

On Mon, Feb 4, 2019 at 10:31 AM Gerow Aaron via KineJapan <
kinejapan at mailman.yale.edu> wrote:

> Dear Eija,
> Others can speak of their experiences, but we have had benshi performances
> at Yale a couple of times. The next one in fact is at the Kinema Club
> conference at the end of this month!
> When we have had Kataoka Ichiro, for instance, we show an English
> subtitled print or Kataoka-san uses a subtitled DVD he has of the film. It
> is not an exact translation of his speech, but given that he can and will
> change his talk from screening to screening, a translation is somewhat
> impossible. Simultaneous translation, as we all know, is rarely
> simultaneous. I think audiences still get a lot out of the voice acting and
> the kowairo.
> Kataoka-san performs all around the world, especially in Europe, so he
> will not break your budget, especially if you supply musical performance on
> your end (he does have an ensemble he tries to travel with). We’re having
> Makia Matsumura play the piano because she’s in NYC much of the time and
> has worked with Kataoka-san many times.
> Aaron
> > 2019/02/04 午前1:54、Eija Niskanen via KineJapan <
> kinejapan at mailman.yale.edu>のメール:
> >
> > I would like to get some advice re arranging a benshi performance
> outside of Japan.
> > How to do with the fact that benshi performs in Japanese, which the
> audience does not understand? Simultaneous video translation or how?
> > Costs? Support for event i.e. Japan Foundation?
> >
> > Best,
> > Eija
> >
> > --
> > Eija Niskanen
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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> > KineJapan at mailman.yale.edu
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