The Life of Chikuzan | Chicago Reader

The Life of Chikuzan

More interesting as a cultural record than a drama, this 1977 Japanese feature by writer-director Kaneto Shindo (The Naked Island, Kuroneko) tells the true story of Chikuzan Takahashi, who lost his eyesight to measles as a boy and supported himself as an adult by tramping around northern Japan as a traveling, often door-to-door, folk singer. Shindo opens with a striking sequence of the real Chikuzan brightly lit before a black backdrop as he sings and hammers away at a samisen, but most of the movie stars Ryuzo Hayashi as the musician and Nobuko Otowa (Shindo's wife and a perpetual player in his films) as his long-suffering mother. With his demons, hard living, and unhappy marriages, Chikuzan could pass for an American folkie any day, though Shindo runs into the same problem that afflicts so many Western biopics of popular musicians: their itinerant lifestyle makes for a meandering story. In Japanese with subtitles.

Credits

Director:

  • Kaneto Shindô

Cast:

  • Nobuko Otowa
  • Mitsuko Baisho
  • Ryûzô Hayashi
  • Dai Kanai
  • Hiroko Isayama
  • Hideo Kanze
  • Atsuko Kawaguchi
  • Takuzo Kawatani
  • Hôsei Komatsu
  • Akemi Negishi

Producers:

  • Setsuo Noto
  • Manabu Akashi

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