Tagged: akira kurosawa, sanshiro sugata
21 March 2020
There’s another wonderful article by Patrick at Toho Kingdom, this time discussing the scenes that were deleted from Kurosawa’s first film, Sanshiro Sugata. Check it out!
Does anyone here have information why the scenes were deleted in the first place? My understanding has been that it was for commercial or pacing reasons rather than censorship ones, but I can’t now find a reference for that claim.
22 March 2020
Yes, fantastic work from Patrick – I was aware that Sanshiro Sugata had been butchered, but I’d no idea of that history. Its wonderful that some parts have been found, it shows there may even be some hope that someday someone will find the rest of The Idiot hidden away in some dusty vault.
I’ve nothing to add about the precise mechanics and reasons behind the cut, but I find it hard to believe that Kurosawa would have made such crude cuts if he was responsible for cutting down the running time. Someone obviously put some thought into it (hence the inter titles), but the choices are curious.
I wonder if, in the chaos of wartime, the censorship issue wasn’t just some lowly bureaucrat feeling uncomfortable about the film without being able to articulate the reasons, so giving a vague order to Toho to edit parts out. Someone fairly low down the Toho editing chain may have just done the best they could with guesswork, and then another lowly bureaucrat just shrugged his shoulders and let things through.
An update. I’ve been re-reading Kyoko Hirano’s book Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo: Japanese Cinema Under the American Occupation, 1945-1952, and she says the Japanese wartime government, at one point, imposed a runtime restriction of 100 minutes. So they were definitely curbing the length of domestic movies in the final years of World War II. The original Sanshiro Sugata was still under that limit at 97 minutes — but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone still wanted to axe it down even further. As has been documented time and time again, the wartime authorities were often very frivolous in the demands they made on filmmakers, and studio personnel in the front office understood this just as well as the directors. It might have been a fearful act of playing it safe.
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