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Live ‘katsuben’ narration bringing silent films back to life

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I wonder how many people today are familiar with “katsuben.”

Short for “katsudo shashin benshi,” meaning “narrators of silent movies,” the profession was held by more than 7,000 people around the nation in the early Showa Era (1926-1989).

The number has plummeted to less than 20 today. You could consider the profession in danger of extinction.

I watched a live katsuben performance for the first time last month in Hekinan, Aichi Prefecture. Charlie Chaplin’s “The Vagabond” (1916) and Yasujiro Ozu’s “Umaretewa Mitakeredo” (I was Born, But ...), released in 1932, were shown.

The narrator spoke for the........

© The Asahi Shimbun