By Takayuki NAKAMURA

ELEVEN ARTS, INC. - as SALES All rights, World

Documentary - Completed 2005

    • Year of production
    • 2005
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • JAPAN
    • Languages
    • KHMER
    • Director(s)
    • Takayuki NAKAMURA
    • Producer(s)
    • Kazuhiro SHIRAO
    • Synopsis
    • Yokohama Mary was a post-war prostitute famed for catering to American GIs stationed in Japan. By the nineties, she had become an eccentric street person in Yokohama known for her appearance – stooped over, her face painted in white makeup like a Kabuki performer. She became the subject of a photo book, a one-woman play and endless rumours. Then, in 1995, she disappeared. Director Takayuki Nakamura explores the mystery of Yokohama Mary through the memories of both people who knew her and those who knew only her legend. One of those closest to her was Ganjiro Nagato, a successful chanson singer who performs jazz standards, often in drag. His own outsider status gave him an affinity for Mary. He used to slip her money for sustenance, always under some pretext to avoid upsetting her pride. Although he looks relatively healthy, X-rays show that his body is riddled with cancer. He longs to find out what happened to Mary before he dies. Nakamura draws upon exquisite art photography of Mary, old documentary footage and well-shot new interviews, all set to a romantic score. We meet several eyewitnesses whose lives border on the underworld: hookers, hoodlums and saloon keepers. Many of their memories centre around the geisha bar Negishiya, made famous in Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low. Former bar patrons walk around the parking lot where the bar once stood and re-create its layout from memory. The whole film conjures the past from stories. The post-war period is mostly remembered with a warm glow, yet it was also an era of desperation, when people did anything to get by. We take a tour of a cemetery for foreigners, where hundreds of dead babies fathered by Americans were left to be buried. The more we learn about Mary, the more mysterious she becomes. There are rumours that she was actually male, that she reconnected with her family, that she died. In the end, Nagata finally discovers what happened to her, a revelatory moment as beguiling as Yokohama Mary herself.