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Records of Turmoil at Oshika Village (2011, Junji Sakamoto)
Allure of the actors' ingenuous performance

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

This movie is a vibrant masterpiece, full of fresh joy as if the genre of film had just been born. This may be a foolish impression of mine. However, despite featuring a score of versatile entertainers in Yoshio Harada, Michiyo Okusu, Ittoku Kishibe, Koichi Sato, Renji Ishibashi, Ichiro Ogura, Den-Den, Rentaro Mikuni and Takehiko Ono (assembling such a cast is a feat in itself), the film offers more than simply a fictitious world which is well-portrayed by the cast. Indeed, the embodiment of the actor's performance can be received as a sort of raw documentary. This creates the indescribable appeal of this film.

Therefore, although this film certainly possesses a story, viewers don't feel the need to earnestly follow the film's meaning. The plot of the film revolves around how Osamu (Ittoku Kishibe) eloped from Oshika Village eighteen years ago with Takako (Michiyo Okusu), the wife of his childhood friend Zen (Yoshio Harada). However, Takako has recently begun to suffer from dementia and now mistakes Osamu for Zen, her husband of long ago. With no other choice, Osamu takes Takako from Tokyo back to Oshika Village for the first time in eighteen years. He tells Zen that he will return his wife because he can no longer handle her. Of course, Zen is angry and tries to attack Osamu, but he is doused in water by Takako and calms down. The process of reconciliation between these three individuals overlaps with acts of Oshika kabuki theatre and is portrayed comically.

This story could have become a tragedy if it was seriously performed. However, director Junji Sakamoto completely avoided such a portrayal. Instead, he entrusted the film to the physical appeal of the cast. For example, there is a scene in which the demented Takako forgets to eat and starts to scavenge for food, as well as another scene in which she shoplifts. Depending on one's perspective, both scenes could be interpreted quite seriously. Yet, the airy appeal held by actress Michiyo Okusu makes these scenes into something of a comedy. Moreover, any viewer will be enthralled by the wonderful harmony of the dialogue between Osamu and Zen as they negotiate while still calling each other by their childhood nicknames. Such factors are more appealing to us than the story itself.

For this very reason, the climax of the film is Oshika kabuki which is acted by all of the characters appearing in the film. This is a unique scene in which the villagers who actually perform this Oshika kabuki are used as audience members or judges, while the professional actors conduct a hastily prepared performance. This creates a wonderful scene in which veteran actors put on an ingenuous and tense performance as if they were preparing for a school play.

Through the appeal of this ingenuous performance, I felt as if I was recalling the desire for performance which sleeps within all of us. In modern society, everyone proclaims that daily life is composed of performance, making this statement as if they were told by a sociologist. However, people who perform the roles which are expected of them don't seem to enjoy the performance very much. It is almost as if the act of performing is an uncomfortable process of trusting oneself to the perspective of others. Of course, such a performance is no fun at all. Isn't the true essence of performing to put on a front, raise your voice and proclaim things which you are too embarrassed to say in daily life? Isn't it the act of projecting your uninhibited performance to the world? This film vibrantly conveys the forgotten appeal of performing to the audience.

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Graduated from School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University, and dropped out of Osaka University Graduate School of Human Sciences. Entered current position after working as an assistant professor at Chiba University.
Majors in visual culture and communication.
Major publications include “Cinema and Technological Experience”(seikyuusya), “Secrets and Pleasure of the Screen”(ibunsha), “Sociological Communication”(co-authored, Yuhikaku), and “It's TV! Everyone Gather Around”(co-authored, Seikyusha).