Dixieland Daimyo | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The 36th film of Japanese filmmaker Kihachi Okamoto, based on a story by Japanese black humorist Yasutaka Tsutsui, stages a weird and anachronistic encounter between three ex-slaves, who are all jazz musicians, en route to Africa just after the Civil War. They are shipwrecked in 19th-century Japan during a country-wide conflict between the Tokugawa shogun and rebel forces. Supported by a Daimyo lord who soon becomes a jazz buff, the musicians find themselves at the center of the Meiji restoration. Using a variety of Eastern and Western forms, including Kabuki, No theater, TV, and Spike Jones shenanigans, this broad farce is a genuine anomaly--suggestive at times of Frank Tashlin, yet thoroughly Japanese. Punctuated by wry intertitles and featuring Japanese voice-overs during the occasional English dialogue, the movie tends to exult in its own silliness; one female Japanese character travels on a skateboard, and the Dixieland that is performed by the Americans along with Japanese playing traditional instruments--credited to Tsutsui and Yosuke Yamashita is often infectious. Not a masterpiece, but loads of fun (1986). (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, August 7, 8:00, 443-3737)

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