The Cinema Cabaret 2009

curated by Jen Hofer and Konrad Steiner

April 29, 2009, 8:30 pm
REDCAT Theater
Second and Hope Streets downtown Los Angeles

The Cinema Cabaret is live film narration, taking off from the tradition of the "benshi" or film-teller as it was practiced during the silent movie era in Japan. The benshi would stand aside the film or behind the screen, voicing the characters and explaining or commenting on the action. The role originated when silent films were first imported to Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

As the country had no production facilities at that time, only foreign films (American, French, Russian, etc) were available. So to create interest in the newfangled Western entertainment, the moviehouse entrepreneurs had the idea to hire people to translate the intertitles and explain what was happening for an audience who might not understand the imagery.

Tonight's presentation consists of short scenes taken from well-known narrative features. The sound is muted and a new script is performed to the images. We reflect on the original purpose of the benshi, and in effect render the products of our own Entertainment-Industrial Complex as if they were foreign to ourselves.

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