Japan films – Zipangu

The Ghost Cat and the Mysterious Shamisen

While we’re on the topic of film festivals, this year we stumbled across Zipangu: the Japanese Film Festival. Previously I have not been aware of any Japan Film Festivals in London. The schedule is not as long as the LKFF mentioned in the previous post. Also, Zinpangu has some emphasis on experimental stuff which is a little beyond my interest or knowledge of Japanese cinema. In the end we decided to go and see just one film: The Ghost Cat and the Mysterious Shamisen. This is an old 1938 ghost cat movie (as the title makes clear). Apparently there is a ghost cat sub-genre and there were several ghost cat movies made in Japan during this period. However, most of the them have been lost, which made this movie a rare treat. I had not previously been aware of such a sub-genre but am happy to know it. As the Zipangu web site explains, this movie is:

“A quintessential example-of-the-period “ghost cat” (bakeneko or kaibyō) movie, a substantial supernatural subgenre based in folklore that stretches back at least as far as Shozo Makino’s The Cat of Okazaki (Okazaki no neko, 1914), this was one of at least six such titles released between 1937-40, many of which were written by Kenji Hata, to feature Japan’s first scream queen, Sumiko Suzuki.

Although old, it was a very enjoyable movie, very Japanese with fabulous clothes and street scenes of 1930s Japan. Particularly interesting were the scenes of the Kabuki theatre as I imagine it was like back in the late 1930s.


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