Japan has a rich history of oral storytelling and theatre. It’s a culture with a strong emphasis on telling yarns, whether that’s in words or song. So, when silent cinema came to their shores from Europe and America, it was obvious that the public would not be content with silence. They came up with an ingenious solution. The idea of a Benshi, a narrator who provided live narration and cultural context. To Sleep So As To Dream celebrates this era.
Private eye Uotsuka (Shirô Sano) and his partner Kobayashi (Koji Otake) are approached with an unusual assignment. Madame Cherryblossom (Fujiko Fukamizu), an aging former actress, has had something of a shock. Her beautiful daughter Bellflower (Moe Kamura) has been kidnapped and the criminals are demanding a ransom for her release. The duo begins the hunt, but they’re led on a merry chase by the employees of the mysterious M. Pathe company.
To Sleep So As To Dream is a playful and inventive tribute to a bygone age. Not only is Kaizô Hayashi’s detective caper beautifully shot, it’s also clever in the way it weaves historical prejudice into the narrative. While there’s a serious underlying message, the emphasis here is on fun. Nothing is taken at all seriously and it’s light and warm-hearted throughout. To Sleep So As To Dream is a wonderful trip down memory lane.
- High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original uncompressed mono audio
- Optional English subtitles
- Brand new audio commentary by Japanese film experts Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp
- Audio commentary with director Kaizo Hayashi and lead actor Shiro Sano recorded in 2000
- How Many Eggs? Actor Shiro Sano Talks, a brand new interview with the film’s lead actor
- Talking Silents: Benshi Midori Sawato Talks, a brand new interview on early Japanese film culture and the art of the benshi silent film commentator
- Midori Sawato Performs ‘The Eternal Mystery’, an exclusive benshi performance to the film within the film
- The Restoration of To Sleep So as to Dream featurette
- Fragments from Japan’s Lost Silent Heyday, a selection of scenes from silent jidai-geki films from the Kyoto Toy Museum archives
- Original Theatrical trailer and English-language restored re-release trailers
- Image gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by David Downton
First Pressing Only:
Illustrated Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Aaron Gerow
To Sleep So As To Dream is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on 21 March.