Directed and written by Kaizô Hayashi — who in addition to films like Zipang, The Most Terrible Time In My Life and The Stairway to the Distant Past owns Bar Tantei, a detective themed bar in Kyoto, Japan — To Sleep as to Dream is the story of two private detectives searching for an actress who has been trapped within the reel of a silent ninja film.
Private eye Uotsuka (Shiro Sano, Shin Godzilla) and his sidekick Kobayashi (Koji Otake) have been hired by Madame Cherryblossom (Fujiko Fukamizu) to find her missing daughter Bellflower (Moe Kamura, who also composed music for this movie), which leads them to a film studio and a vision of a samurai movie with no ending, a series of actors from Japan’s movie past and sets by Takeo Kimura, the art designer of movies like Tokyo: The Last War, A Killer Without a Grave and many more, as well as being the oldest person to ever direct a movie, 2008’s Dreaming Awake at the age of 90.
A near-silent film with often only music and commentary by a benshi performer, someone who would narrate silent films for the audience, all to tell the story of a world where detectives and magicians attempt to rescue or restrain Bellflower. The M. Pathé and Company villains are obsessed with film — and aren’t we, too? — through a film that I was certain did come from Japan’s past long before 1986.
Madame Cherryblossom keeps watching a movie with no ending, either in her memory or reality and like much of Japan’s silent film past, it may have been lost to age or warfare. The film that emerges casts her missing daughter as the goal for our hero, but can real life be a love story?
I’d never heard of this film and it just hit me perfectly. Be sure to seek it out and do the same for yourself.
The Arrow Video blu ray is the first time this movie has ever been released in that format. It has a high definition 1080p presentation with the original uncompressed mono audio and optional English subtitles. There are two commentary tracks, one with Japanese film experts Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp as well as an archival commentary with director Kaizo Hayashi and lead actor Shiro Sano. There’s also a new interview with Shiro Sano; Talking Silents: Benshi Midori Sawato Talks, a brand new interview on early Japanese film culture and the art of the benshi silent film commentator; an exclusive benshi performance for the movie witin the movie, a feature on the film’s restoration, a selection of silent jidai-geki period drama films from the Kyoto Toy Museum, trailers for the original release and the English-language restored re-release, an image gallery, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by David Downton and a booklet featuring new writing on the film by Aaron Gerow.
You can order the blu ray of this movie from MVD.
You can also watch this on ARROW PLAYER. Head over to ARROW to start your 30-day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.