How Would a Group of Puppeteers Portray the Emotions Felt by Chubei in the Final Scene of Act 1 in the Bunraku Performed “the Lovers’ Exile” by Marty Gross?

Topics: Bunraku, Puppet, Puppetry Pages: 11 (4411 words) Published: January 24, 2013
How would a group of puppeteers portray the emotions felt by Chubei in the final scene of act 1 in the Bunraku performed “The Lovers’ Exile” by Marty Gross?


Subject Essay …………………………………………………………………………p. 2-8 Bibliography…………………………………………………...……………………..p. 9 Critique of Sources…………………………………………………………….p. 10-12

“The Lovers’ Exile”, a Japanese movie directed by Marty Gross, based on the ancient bunraku play “The Courier from Hell” (Meido no kikyaku) a love-suicide play written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon in 1711. It was first staged in Osaka at the Takemotoza in the third month of 1711. The Lover’s Exile is not a tradional form of movie with changing scenes and camera angles, it is just a filming of the Lovers’ Exile.

“The Courier from Hell” tells the tale of Chubei, an adopted son of a courier who is in love with Umegawa, a prostitute in his local town of Osaka. Chubei steals letters and packages from customers of his father’s courier house as he tries to buy out Umegawa’s contract before another man chooses to do so. Returning from a visit to the pleasure house, Chubei’s friend Hachiemon runs into him and demands he returns money he owes him. After discussing, Chubei breaks down and admits to Hachiemon that he is trying to buy out Omegawa’s contract. Hachiemon is impressed by Chubei’s honesty and forgives the debt. Later on however, Chubei finds a large sum of gold has to be given to a samurai and initially he attempts to do, but his emotions take over his reasoning and he finds himself going to the brothel instead, ending Act 1. Once at the brothel he finds Hachiemon there, pleading him not to do anything stupid, however Chubei is offended by his friends’ mistrust and in his anger breaks the seal on the container of the gold, a crime punishable by death, and pays his debts to Hachiemon along with the Umegawa’s contract. The couple then decide to escape, however they are eventually caught by soldiers. The tale ends with the lines “What further fate was theirs tongue need not recite. Suffice to say their names remain upon the roll of those whom passion made its prey.”

To perform “The Courier from Hell” in its bunraku style, it is vital to understand the rules and limitations of it. The bunraku style began with simple puppets which could be manipulated by only one puppeteer, however they were then gradually altered to have three puppeteers to make the movements appear more lifelike. The bunraku style differentiates itself from all other puppet theatres, as the puppeteers are clearly visible to the audience at all times. These puppets usually vary in size between 1 meter 50 cm and 1 meter 30 cm, and they are controlled by three puppeteers who all control a different area of the body. There is the omo-zukai (head puppeteer) who controls the puppets head and face, by holding a stick with levers in his left hand, and uses his right hand to control the doll’s right hand. Then the hidari-zukai (left-hand puppeteer) who controls only the left hand of the puppet with his right hand, lastly there is the ashi-zukai (foot puppeteer) who uses his hands to control the legs and feet of the puppet. The puppeteers work together with each other as the ultimate bunraku theatre makes the doll as life like as possible with a heart guiding it, when all three puppeteers function together perfectly. The puppeteering is an extremely arduous task, junior puppeteers begin as leg manipulators, after having spent ten to fifteen years to master the art, then they need ten to fifteen more years to learn the left-arm operation.

As seen here, the three puppeteers controlling the puppet, all dressed in black to inspire the idea of nothingness. The idea of nothingness is supposed eliminate the puppeteers from the audience perspective, the audience simply ignores their presence as if they were not there. Along with the puppeteers, bunraku theatre uses chanting of gidaya-bushi, trying to make an expressionless puppet as life like as...
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