His Master’s Voice (2014)
His Master’s Voice (Mô ichido) is a Japanese film (See the trailer here) by Director Hiroyuki Itaya that shows what you can achieve with just good story-telling (pun intended) and not waste on big budgets.
Set in the Edo period (1603 to 1868) the film happens inside a small compound where a dozen families live and served by 2 to 3 shops. Each family has only a small room for themselves, they share a common wash and toilets, and live as a closely knit community. To this comes Taihei, a widowed gentleman who keeps to himself and he is not interacting with the others. Learning Taihei was a former storyteller (called Rakugo in Japanese), the next room couple (a boatman and his wife) plead with him to do a performance to cheer up their son Sadakichi who is gloomy, after being bullied at the shop he works for. Children in those days were sent on apprenticeship away from their family’s to live in their workplace, not coming for the first three years at a stretch, after which they get to come home every year for two days. Sadakichi gets so impressed with a private show by Taihei, he pleads with his boss who agrees to spare him for three months to train as a storyteller under Taihei, after which based on Sadakichi’s performance he will decide to release him from apprenticeship. The training goes well and in the end, not only Sadakichi grows-up, but Taihei, the master gets healed of his past wounds in life.
It was a pure delight watching Taihei delivering his Rakugo performances, telling us stories – of a kid and his father going on shopping, a story of just eating soba, and finally, a son returning from apprenticeship and his parents. Master Taihei demonstrates that a Rakugo performer needs just two props – a handkerchief and a Japanese fan – just these two items transforming into numerous objects with a bit of imagination from the storyteller and the listener. Actor Taihei Hayashiya who appears in his own name in the film was brilliant, so was the child actor Nayuta Fukuzaki who appears as Sadakichi. The comic story rendered by Sada of a client cheating a soba eatery owner was hilarious!
If you like to see a good cinema, get transported to a by-gone era and a way of life, don’t miss this film.