Die Weise Der Jongara-Shamisen Von Tsugaru
, 103min, OmeU
Saitô Kôichi, who had started his career as a stills photographer for Nikkatsu and later moved on to directing films, has often been compared to Claude Lelouch for the elegance with which he combined images and music. As he had started out as a photographer he frequently took hold of the camera himself in his early films and was praised particularly for his visual sensitivity. Furthermore, Saitô was a well-known jazz maniac although his profound musical knowledge was not confined to jazz alone. Thus, in the 1960s, he directed a series of musicals for Shôchiku which made use of popular music but were much subtler than the contemporary Hollywood musicals starring Elvis Presley. Films such as <i>Chiisana sunakku</i> (We Met at a Snack Bar, 1968) and <i>Ochiba to kuchizuke</i> (Leaves and Kisses, 1969), in which Saitô used the techniques of nouvelle vague and cinéma vérité, are lyrical descriptions of the ups and downs of adolescence. In Japan, they still have an enthusiastic audience. (In <i>Chiisana sunakku</i> television actors appear under their actual names; improvised interviews are incorporated into the film without following any particular logic. In <i>Ochiba to kuchizuke</i> certain repartees «We used to be in love», «No, Id remember that» remind us of Alain Resnais and, stylistically, a little of Jacques Demy.)
In 1972 Saitô moved on from mere entertainment to receive critical acclaim for the first time for his melancholy melodrama <i>Yakusoku</i> (The Rendezvous, 1972), which was later remade in Korea, and <i>Tabi no omosa</i> (Journey into Solitude, 1972), an extemporized roadmovie. Stimulated by this success, Saitô, in cooperation with ATG, directed <i>Tsugaru Jongara-bushi</i> as an independent production in 1973.