As I walked into Hudson Hall last Saturday, to see a Night of Neo-Benshi, I had no idea what to expect. I knew there were films, but it was also a cabaret? There were performances? Or, did I confuse that with another event?
Considering I had been promoting a Night of Neo-Benshi on this blog for weeks prior, you would think I would know more. Nope.
Jeffrey Lependorf, Executive Director of The Flow Chart Foundation, explained the concept of Benshi at the start of the evening. During the silent film era, when audiences in Japan watched western movies, they had live performers on stage translating the films. Neo-Benshi, is a modern-day take on this concept. In Neo-Benshi, films are sometimes stripped of their sound or voice tracks and live performers talk, dance, or make music in its place.
This is the second annual Night of Neo-Benshi – the first evening was two years ago, in 2019. There was a year gap due to the pandemic.
It was a sold-out event and the space was filled with neo-Hudson’s glitterati. For a rainy Saturday night, this was the place in town to see and be seen.
There was audience participation (you slapped yourself) with Stephin Merritt’s neo-benshi to Sissy Boy Slap Party. Fortunately, you can watch the film on youtube – without the added dimensions of Merritt’s accompaniment and an audience slapping itself.
Kudos to The Flow Chart Foundation and Hudson Hall for a fun evening out.
Too bad Neo-Benshi only happens once a year in Hudson!