Tokyo March (Tokyo Koshinkyoku 1929) is a 23 minute
silent film by Kenji Mizoguchi. There are two striking things about this early
film: the location footage of Tokyo and the themes that Mizoguchi would develop
over his career are readily apparent in this film. I was surprised to see so
much location of the late 20s Tokyo. I was under the impression that most silent
films were produced on sound stages. That being said I was also intrigued to
see that Mizoguchi incorporated a journal entry and a letter reading into the
film to propel the story along in addition to the benshi (narrator) cues read in between scenes to comment on the action.
It is a complicated love story
that result in a somewhat bittersweet conclusion. Essentially, Michiyo, a poor
fatherless girl loses her mother to illness and must become a geisha to support
her uncle and aunt who she lives with since the uncle has lost his job. A woman
turning to the “water trade” to support a family is a recurring theme in the
films of Mizoguchi and a reflection of what happened in his own life as his
sister became a geisha to support him and his family. It was more compelling than
I expected it to be.