One by one, the guests appear – a pianist, a stripper, a pachinko-playing painter, a young waitress – in this charming group portrait of Japan, situated in the timeless safety of a dusky bar. Recently refilmed with Kill Bill’s Chiaki Kurayama.
Altman, Becker and Truffaut spring to mind at various times in this lovely, strange little film. Spatially and temporally enclosed – it takes place in the eponymous saloon during half a day – the film offers a fondly observed group portrait of Japan, soon after Uchida returned from Manchuria. One by one, the regulars of the crepuscular bar appear: the pianist who dreams of becoming a composer but has disappeared from the music world after a knifing; a stripper whose man has done her wrong; an elderly painter trying to make a living at pachinko; a young waitress considering elopement. The ‘twilight’ is more than just a time of day; here, it is a state of being, a suspension between past and present, between the camaraderie of the saloon and the harsh world outside. The roaming, inquisitive camera, poignant musical numbers, and Uchida’s sympathy with the working class and downtrodden lend the film a graceful social density. The enduring charm of Twilight Saloon led to a recent remake, Take The “A” Train Someday, starring Chiaki Kuriyama of Kill Bill. (JQ) —International Film Festival Rotterdam
Uchida Tomu was born in the city of Okayama, Okayama Prefecture on April 26, 1898 to a family of confectionary makers. After dropping out of high school and spending time as a piano tuner in Yokohama, Uchida worked on and off for the Taisho Katsuei Motion Picture Company founded in May 1920. Nicknamed Tom by his gang, he took the stage name Tomu and became an actor, also serving as an assistant director, assistant cameraman and stagehand. Uchida joined the Makino educational films (Makino Kyoikueiga Seisakusho) in Kyoto, and directed his first film Aa, Konishi Junsa (Police Officer Konishi, 1922) with Kinugasa Teinosuke; however, his innate wanderlust soon had him off traveling around Japan, mixing with the people at the bottom of the social ladder. In 1926 he went to work for Nikkatsu, making his proper directorial debut with Kyoso Mikkakan (Three Days of Competition, 1927). Following his early light comedies, Uchida went on to make the socialist leaning… read more