Puppet theatre can be found in many cultures, but few can match bunraku for sophistication. The puppets are manipulated by three puppeteers, who perform with a narrator and musical accompaniment. The puppets laugh, cry and show every human emotion, enacting tragedies of the past. This DVD features two national treasures, one a puppeteer, the other a narrator.Tamao Yoshida (born 1919) was one of the great master puppeteers of bunraku. He is credited as being a major reason for bunraku maintaining its status as the world's most highly developed form of puppet theatre. Born in Osaka, where bunraku itself originated in the 17th century, Tamao started to study the art of the puppeteer aged 14. He did odd jobs while learning from and watching the masters of the time. His study was interupted by the war, but he returned to become at first a left-arm manipulator, then leg manipulator and finally head puppeteer (it takes three people to operate a full sized bunraku puppet.) Tamao is known for his calm stage presence. The Inamori Foundation recognized him in 2003 as the Kyoto Prize Laureate in Arts and Philosophy. Born in 1923, Sumitayu Takemoto is a Living National Treasure of bunraku. His late father, Sumitayu VI, was also a designated Living National Treasure. True performing ability for a gidayu or narrator is all important in bunraku and Sumitayu Takemoto displays all the necessary attributes in abundance. It requires many years of training and is remarkably virtuosic drawing on dynamics, power and a huge vocal and pitch range, almost to the limits of human possibility. Sumitayu conveys the attraction of the music and expresses the emotions of the characters.
Chapter 1 is an NHK documentary broadcast in 2001. The camera follows Yoshida and Takemoto at rehasals and back stage. This program was awarded the 'grand prix' at the 'Hi Vision International Film Festival 2001'. 49 minutues. Chapter 2 is of Tamao Yoshida and Sumitayu Takemoto performing 'Kita no Shinkawa Sho no Dan' from 'Shinju Ten no Amijima', the masterpiece of Monzaemon Chikamatsu. Performed in November 2000 at National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka. 100 minutes. Region Code 2, NTSC. Total time 149 minutes.