The Age of Dreaming, Nina Revoir, 2008
A novel of two Japanese theater and silent film actors in early 20th Century Los Angeles. Jun leaves Japan to study at UM Madison where he sees a traveling Japanese theater based in Los Angeles group perform. He stops in Los Angeles in 1907 on his way home to Japan and accidentally gets involved in a local theater production despite having no experience in theater. Hanako, leader of the traveling theater group, joins him in the production where they are both spotted by a silent film director. Jun gets larger and larger roles and soon finds himself under contract to one of the largest studios in Hollywood at $10,000 per week. Hanako continues to land small roles and continues her work in the theater.
We jump to 1964 and a journalist is researching a piece on the silent film era and is trying to locate the few remaining living stars from that period. He tracks Jun down and tries to interest him in a new movie project involving an aging Japanese man suspected by his neighbors of being a war criminal. Jun hasn’t acted since 1922 and we slowly unravel the reasons why. The story involves women, the murder of an English director, and a studio cover up.
Hidden carefully in the account is the almost invisible romance between Jun, a party giver and womanizer, and Hanako that resembles the relationship between the butler and house keeper in Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day right down to the understated and indirect voices of the actors. Against a backdrop of increasing anti Japanese sentiment in California, (Jun flees to England during the war while Hanako is interred in Manzanar where she continued her theater productions.) we see Jun accumulate real estate holding through indirect ownership so he is able to retire from acting in 1922 yet live comfortably.
Jun had used his fame to sell U.S. bonds in WWI but is strangely absent as anti-Japanese sentiment gains momentum after WWI. A nostalgic look at old Los Angeles, it hot spots, hotels, and restaurants in the early film days. Also a look at an out of touch old silent film actor wearing out of fashion clothes and driving his antique Packard as he nostalgically revisits old run down establishments.