Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘Talking The PIctures’

Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2021: Our Review of ‘Talking The PIctures’

This film’s first act takes its viewers to early 20th century Japan. Then, the country was an environment where silent film production fostered. But unlike in the West where the films had intertitles, screenings often came with people narrating a film’s events. In 1915, Shuntaro Sometami was a boy sneaking into theatres to listen to his idol Shisei Yamaoka (Masatoshi Nagase). Years later, Shuntaro (Ryo Narita) goes from impersonating Shisei as a front to steal from people’s houses to being an errand boy in a theatre in a small city. Shuntaro’s wide eyed appreciation for even the skills of the theatre’s middleman is the kind of attitude that can help him climb up the ladder within the theatre. But his past is always there to haunt him. Although ‘haunting’ might be too heavy in a movie that’s mostly a comedy where Shuntaro eventually works with Shisei who works while drinking.

It’s interesting to watch something about the early days of cinema within the parameters of the modern day viewing experience. A word of advice, as prevailed as this sounds – it’s better to cast this film on a TV instead of watching it on a laptop. On a TV the colors are vibrant, but watching this on a laptop makes the cinematography or photography look like the make-up department put a strong bronzer on everyone in the cast. There’s also something schlocky about some of the B-plots, and those scenes come with an erratic score. One minute, the score uses woodwind instruments like silent films do, and at other times it’s synth-y. That said, Narita’s performance as Shuntaro is believable as a boy turning into a man. And he carries Talking the Pictures and makes it feel light. A film with thieves and gangsters needs a nuanced touch like his.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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