How One Man Keeps Showing Films in a Japanese Cinema That Closed 58 Years Ago: A Moving, Short Documentary

Given that at least the nineteen-fifties, when tv possession commenced spreading quickly across the formulated entire world, motion picture theaters have been laboring below one kind of existential danger or yet another. Still in spite of their evident vulnerability to a wide range of disruptive developments — household online video, streaming, COVID-19 — lots of, if not most, of them have located means to soldier on. In some instances this owes to the commitment of smaller teams of supporters, or even to the efforts of people today like Shuji Tamura, who operates the century-old Motomiya Film Theater in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture single-handedly.

You can see Tamura in action in My Theater, the 5-minute documentary short higher than. “The Japanese director Kazuya Ashizawa’s charming observational portrait captures Tamura as he screens old movies for an viewers of students and cinephiles, and offers at the rear of-the-scenes tours of the cinema,” suggests Aeon. Individuals tours involve an up-shut look at the comprehensively analog movie projector of whose operation Tamura, 81 several years old at the time of filming, has retained all the know-how. Even though he officially closed the theater in the nineteen-sixties, it seems he retains his threading abilities sharp by holding screenings for tour teams younger and previous.

Though lighthearted, a portrait like this could barely avoid an elegiac undertone. Currently suffering from the depopulation that has troubled quite a few areas of Japan, Fukushima was also badly troubled by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and their affiliated nuclear disaster. In 2020, the 12 months after Ashizawa shot My Theater, a hurricane “caused the Abukumagawa river and its tributaries to flood,” as the Asahi Shimbun‘s Shoko Rikimaru writes. “The Motomiya city centre was inundated, 7 people today died, and a lot more than 2,000 houses and structures were damaged.” Each Tamura’s theater and his residence were being flooded, and “half of the 400 film cans on shelves on the 1st flooring of his dwelling were being drenched in muddy drinking water.”

In reaction, aid arrived from around and far. “A manufacturer in Kanagawa Prefecture despatched 10 boxes of movie cans to the theater, when a movie theater in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, delivered a film-modifying machine. About 30 people today affiliated with the film industry in Tokyo showed up at the theater to support clean and dry the movie. The energy led to the restoration of about 100 movies.” Alas, Tamura’s prepared re-opening occasion took place to coincide with the spread of the coronavirus across Japan, ensuing in its indefinite postponement. But now that Japan has re-opened for intercontinental tourism, maybe the  Motomiya Motion picture Theater can come to be a spot for not just domestic visitors but international types as properly. Possessing been charmed by My Theater, who wouldn’t want to make the vacation?

through Aeon

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Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His assignments consist of the Substack newsletter Publications on Towns, the book The Stateless Town: a Wander through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the movie series The City in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.

Shirley McQuay

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