TO SLEEP SO AS TO DREAM BLU RAY REVIEW

THE ARTIST caused a sensation on its release. It was one of the things that lead it to award glory and a whole heap of box office cash. I suspected that the main reason for its success and the centre of the response and the sensation was the silent soundscape. The silence drenched the cinema. The other was a dog that could perform tricks. In TO SLEEP AS TO DREAM it is the former and now add to this, Eggs. Lots of eggs. A heck of a lot of sulphur. Not COOL HAND LUKE level but close. Now I might sound flippant ( and I am being) but Kaizo Hayashi film is a one trick pony that is as much adoration of Japanese silent cinema as it is ode to the future of film.

An aging silent film actress stares at the screen. The screen reveals her long lost daughter. She has been lost to the past and now, as she gets to the end, the actress decides to hire private eye Uotsuka (Shiro Sano) and his slightly odd assistant sidekick Kobayashi to track down her missing daughter, Bellflower. The hunt starts within the reel of a ninja film and slowly cascades into other genres, places and spaces of silent cinema. Dreams onscreen lead to nightmares off. The quest for the missing daughter leads them to the studios of the mysterious M. Pathe company. Here Uotsuka has a strange vision in which he comes face to face with the beautiful star. Then on, things begin to get a little strange and lead no where or maybe to the eternal truth about are fixation with all things cine.

Highly regarded then as now, TO SLEEP SO AS TO DREAM is a rather refreshing affair. The obvious parrallels between screen illusion and powerful allusion are clear.  but it is the touches of love for the silent screen, that transfix. With as much adoration and insight of the artform as a scholar in the field, Kaizo Hayashi film is a wonder of cinephile and film literacy. Weird how long it has taken to finally make its way to home-video outside of Japan but I for one am glad it finally has and well done Arrow. Glorious HD has added to this visual delight, with rich black tones and textures. Though still 1080p, I wonder what a 4K transfer would have done for the film. A lot I believe. The best extra on the set and the one I would implore you to get your teeth into is Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp commentary. I tried in vain to set up a company with Sharp to release films. His eye for and knowledge of Japanese cinema is exemplary. He knowns what he says and imparts. This is so important for any film lover.

  • 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

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