Bunraku - Signified, Signifier, Signifie


 There are two types of play. History Play, which is the story of before the Edo period, Tale play, which is contemporized with Edo period. Most of the plays were made at Edo period but some are after the Meiji period.

The principal operator controls the upper part of the doll and its right arm; his face is visible, smooth, clear, impassive, cold like ‘a white onion freshly washed’. The two assistants are clad in black, their faces were hidden by a piece of cloth; the first, gloved but with thumb exposed, holds a large scissors mechanism with which he operates the doll’s left arm and hand; the second, crawling along on his knees, supports the body, makes it walk. These men move about along a low trench which leaves them unconcealed. (1977, Barthes)

The Western marionette too (as is evident in Punch) is a by-product of fantasy: as reduction, a grating reflection with an adherence to the human order ceaselessly recalled by a caricatural simulation, it lives not as a total body, totally vibrating, but as a rigid portion of the actor of whom it is an emanation; (1977, Barthes)

Indeed illumine so many works of the East and which we are scarcely able to comprehend, since for us to attack meaning is to conceal or oppose it, never to absent it.

There are three elements in Bungaku. The marionette, the manipulator, the vociferator; the effected gesture, the effective gesture, the vocal gesture. Gesture here is twofold: emotive gesture with the marionette (people cry at the suicide of the doll-lover); transitive action with the manipulators. (1977, Barthes) it exposes at once the art and the work, keeping for each its own particular writing.

Here we have, as Brecht saw in connection with the oriental actor whose lesson he wished to receive and propagate on this point too, the reign of the quotation,1 the pinch of writing, the fragment of code, none of the promoters of the action being able to take responsibility in his own person for what he is never alone in writing. As in the modern text, the tressing of codes, references, discontinuous observations, anthological gestures, multiplies the written line, and this not by virtue of some metaphysical appeal but by the play of a combinatory set which opens in the entire space of the theatre: what is started by the one is continued by the other, unendingly.

‘He limits himself from the start to simply quoting the character played. But with what art he does this! He only needs a minimum of illusion. What he has to show is worth seeing even for a man in his right mind.’ Brecht, ibid., p. 121 [trans, p. 94]; and elsewhere: ‘Once the idea of total transformation is given up, the actor speaks his part not as if he were improvising it himself but like a quotation.’ ‘Nouvelle technique d’interpretation’, ibid., p. 150 [‘New techniques of acting’, trans, p. 138].

The poster of the Bunraku conceal the manipulator completely and shows only dolls’ figure as the characters of the story. Story itself is the Myth, fantasy, imagination. Even the story comes from real stories, it is not exactly same moment. The story is altered by storytellers and manipulators and played on the stage as a separated but treated equal as real. These Parable, I think, we can compared with our spoken and written languages and even visual languages. 

Many Hollywood movies’ which claimed based on true story, is really true story? “Based on true story” breaks down The fourth wall? or is it confine real to reality? These so called “True story” also can be a parable. It is not real but alternative reality. 

Barthes, R. and Heath, S. (1977). Image, music, text. 1st ed. London: Fontana Press.