Tokyo, sometime in the 1950s. When private eye Uotsuka and his sidekick Kobayashi are approached by an aging actress to go in search of her kidnapped daughter, Bellflower, their investigations lead them to the studios of the mysterious M. Pathé company. Here they come head-to-head with a gang of heavies, hired by the kidnappers, on a deserted soundstage with a decorous peacock backdrop. After being knocked unconscious, Uotsuka has a strange vision in which he comes face to face with the beautiful Bellflower, who is apparently trapped in a 1915 chanbara film that has no ending. From then on, things begin to get a little strange…
Hayashi Kaizō's magical debut, a double-handed cinematic homage set in the movie worlds of the 1910s and 1950s, predates Michel Hazanavicius' recent faux-silent work The Artist by 25 years, and was both shot on and will be projected from film. Playing for the most part without dialogue, it toys with the conventions of both the silent film and hardboiled detective genres, as it leads the viewer through a maze of such colourful locales as a carnival fairground and a deserted film set.
Drifting between illusion and allusion, To Sleep So As to Dream is chockfull of references to Japan's rich cinematic heritage, featuring cameos from a host of veteran talent including the benshi (silent film narrators) Shunsui Matsui and Midori Sawato, and the baroque sets of Takeo Kimura, the Nikkatsu art designer fondly remembered for his flamboyant work with Seijun Suzuki in the 1960s. One of the most intricately-crafted and self-contained Japanese films of the 1980s, and great fun to boot!
To Sleep So As To Dream is the debut feature of Kaizō Hayashi (1957- ), one of the most interesting directors to emerge from the Japanese independent sector during the 1980s. He followed it up with the Fellini-esque Circus Boys (Nijūseiki shônen dokuhon, 1989), which won the Charlie Chaplin Award at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1989, the fantasy adventure Zipang (1990), and the Yokohama Mike ('Maiku Hama') trilogy of film noir homages that began with The Most Terrible Time in My Life (Waga jinsei saiaku no toki, 1994). The three Yokohama Mike films later led to a Yomiuri TV series produced by Hayashi that aired in Summer 2002, with each of its twelve episodes directed by a different filmmaker, including Sōgo Ishii, Shinji Aoyama, Isao Yukisada and Alex Cox.
He also contributed The Man in the Moon (Tsuki no hito) section of the three-film omnibus Figaro Story (1991), which also included works by Alejandro Agresti and Claire Denis, and between 1991-1993 produced the six-film Asian Beat series of Asian co-productions starring Nagase Masatoshi, each set in a different country and directed by a local filmmaker, including Clara Law (Hong Kong), Aziz M. Osman (Malaysia) and Yu Wei Yen (Taiwan). Other works as a director include the Taiwan-set detective thriller The Breath (Umi hōzuki, 1996) and the manga-adaptation Cat's Eye (1997) about a trio of slinky feline jewel thieves. More recently he has been working as a producer active in the field of independent film and Asian co-productions.
Mes, Tom, and Jasper Sharp. The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 2004.