As The Artist proved, cinema audiences have a thirst for film nostalgia. The golden days of Hollywood may be long gone but the memories of the great films and film stars continue to prevail within popular culture. The same can be said for Japanese cinema. Whilst the nature of film-making in the Rising Sun may have changed, there’s still great respect for the glory days of Chanbara (sword-fighting dramas and films). Whilst the focus is often on the heroes Uzumasa Limelight goes behind the scenes to celebrate professional extras.
Kamiyama (Seizô Fukumoto) is a kirare-yaku , an actor whose forte is being cut down with a sword. He has dedicated 50 years of his life, dying over 50,000 times, to his profession. Kamiyama works at the Uzamasa Studios is Kyoto, the birthplace and spiritual home of samurai period dramas. He’s highly respected by young extras and older actors alike, taking the eager Satsuki (Chihiro Yamamoto) under his wing. As her career takes off he finds himself succumbing to age and becoming a victim of the changing nature of the film industry.
Inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s final film Limelight, Uzumasa Limelight is a fitting tribute to a dying breed of actors. A critique on the laziness and lack of depth of mainstream modern cinema, Ken Ochiai’s film is not an angry diatribe but more of a gracious defeat. A real life kirare-yaku, Seizô Fukumoto is magnificent as the lead; both in terms of his acting and his amazing figure. Uzumasa Limelight is a stately heartfelt tribute to the great era of samurai films.
Uzamasa Limelight is screening as part of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme in venues across the UK.