TOKYO (TR) – Following the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, numerous structures in Tokyo and elsewhere were scrutinized regarding seismic safety.
One venue deemed unsafe was the venerable Cine Pathos the theater. As a result, the theater, which is located under a major street in the Ginza district, will be raising its curtain for the final time on March 31, ending a nearly five-decade run.
To commemorate this unique theater, which screens multiple genres, such as current blockbusters and B-movies, director Naofumi Higuchi this month presents “The Intermission,” a selection of skits honoring the history of film.
“What you see in this theater, which is about to disappear, is what was seen in cinema in the 1970s,” said Higuchi after a screening of the film at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Tuesday. “It is this very special anarchic power. That is gone now.”
But rather than write an obituary, Higuchi has created a lighthearted celebration on celluloid. “The Intermission” features some of Japan’s most notable actors and actresses, including Kyoko Kagawa, Kumiko Akiyoshi, and Shota Sometani, primarily playing theater customers while paying tribute to everything from gangster films to Akira Kurosawa to the Japanese horror genre. “I did not want the theater to go away in a somber mood,” said Higuchi of the mostly volunteer production. “I wanted a happy ending.”
Cine Pathos opened in 1967, when it was known as the Ginza Meigaza. Starting in 2009, one of its three screens was dedicated entirely to Japanese classics.
Unique, too, is the theater’s location. The entrance is inside an arcade that extends under the pavement used by the cars and pedestrians on Chuo-dori. Rolling beneath the theater’s seats is Tokyo Metro’s Hibiya Line subway, whose frequent rumblinb, well-known to theater regulars, appears in the film. “We initially started out trying to avoid the sound,” said Higuchi, “but during the shoot we finally came to the conclusion that it was not possible.”
Multiple theater complexes have closed in the metropolis in recent years. Yet Higuchi believes that Cine Pathos warranted a tribute since it did not pigeonhole itself by offering one particular genre, as an art-house or revival theater will do. “I think it is one of those theaters that miraculously continued to run until this day,” the director said. “It also exemplifies the breadth of the film culture that Japan has had all these decades.”
Higuchi thinks that “The Intermission,” does not signal an end, just as its name implies. “I wanted this film to be a stepping off or starting point for moving into the future,” said Higuchi, referring to the future of cinema. “In order to do that in an appropriate way, we have to know about our history.”
“The Intermission” opens on February 23 at Cine Pathos.