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Film / The Dragon Painter

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The Dragon Painter is a 1919 film directed by William Worthington, produced by and starring Sessue Hayakawa, and also starring Hayakawa's wife, Tsuru Aoki.

Tatsu (Hayakawa) is a talented artist who also happens to be mentally deranged. He lives in the hills around his Japanese village, convinced that he has spent the last thousand years searching for his fiancée, a princess who was captured by an evil spirit and turned into a dragon. Tatsu makes drawing after drawing of dragons as he searches fruitlessly for his imaginary princess.

One of those drawings happens to make its way to a surveyor who is a friend of the great artist Kano Indara. Indara has no son, and is thus looking for an heir and protege. Indara lures Tatsu to his home with the promise of the imaginary princess, but instead gives Tatsu his daughter, Ume-ko. This works quite well, as Tatsu accepts Ume-ko and her love cures his mania. But his art suffers.

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Tropes:

  • Faking the Dead: Ume-ko fakes her suicide in order to get Tatsu painting again.
  • Happily Arranged Marriage: Indara pairs off Ume-ko with Tatsu so he'll stick around at Indara's studio. It's a love match.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ume-ko kills herself so that Tatsu will again be able to paint. Or so he thinks.
  • Hollywood Darkness: As was standard for films of the day, everything is still light, but vaguely bluish, at night.
  • Intro Dump: One villager exclaims to his clueless acquaintance everything about Tatsu the crazy artist.
  • Love Makes You Uncreative: Falling in love with Ume-ko destroys Tatsu's ability to paint.
    Ume-ko: I destroyed the divine gift you possessed.
  • Race Lift: Tatsu's patron, Kano Indara, is played by a white actor. It's rather odd since everyone else in the cast is of Japanese ethnicity.
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  • Scenery Porn: Yosemite looks just lovely.
  • Title Drop: Tatsu is called the dragon painter, because that's what he does.
  • Writer's Block: The artist's equivalent, as Tatsu's domestic happiness renders him unable to paint.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Ume-ko is a gentle soul who marries Tatsu after her father decides that he needs to attract a protege and heir. Then, when their love gives him a case of Writer's Block because Love Makes You Uncreative, she commits suicide so Tatsu will be able to paint again. Then, when he's lost in melancholy over her death, she emerges from hiding to reveal she was Faking the Dead in order to get him painting.
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