Sunday, February 12, 2017

SANDAKAN 8! Seeing a Classic of Japanese Cinema for the First Time!

Japanese actress Yoko Takahashi. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Today, I had the distinct privilege of meeting actress Yoko Takahashi for the second time. The occasion was a rare screening of the classic Japanese film, Sandakan 8 (1974), which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1975 Academy Awards (losing to Akira Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala). Aside from her leading role in Sandakan 8, Takahashi-san can also be seen in Kon Ichikawa's The Devil's Ballad (1977).

This was my first time to see Sandakan 8, though I've known about it for more than 20 years. For the longest time, I simply knew it as a dramatic film for which Akira Ifukube wrote the score. I later learned about its Oscar nomination and the fact that Gene Siskel put it on his top 10 list for the best films of 1976. (Siskel ranked it third best of the year.) However, never having found a subtitled copy to watch, I avoided it for the longest time, hoping to enjoy the translated version. However, given that a rare 35mm screening of the film was happening (with a special appearance by one of its stars), how could I say no?

The film was quite impressive and easy to follow, despite my lack of Japanese. Takahashi-san, who plays Saki Kitagawa as a young woman, was present for the screening, and was very friendly and approachable. A Japanese friend of mine gave me a couple of stills from the film for Takahashi-san to sign for me. Many thanks! Takahashi-san stayed at the event quite late, and when it was finished, I was invited to ride in the taxi with her to the station, and we even rode the train together part of the way home. Suffice it to say, it was quite a day.

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