The lights will come on again!


The ByTowne is now closed. But there's good news!

After the pandemic has been brought under control,
new management will take over the space and the ByTowne will re-open.

It may take a while for pandemic restrictions to be eased enough
that a feasible number of patrons can be allowed to watch a movie again,
but the new owners are working towards that day.

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Based on the life and short stories of mangaka Yoshihiro Tatsumi

To nonaficionados, Japanese comic books, or manga, typically celebrate vampire-hunting beauties or feisty schoolgirls, tentacled monsters or technology-crazed teenagers. But to the graphic artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi and his peers in the late 1950s, they offered an opportunity to explore darker, more sophisticated stories about postwar Japan – stories so adult that they required a brand-new name: gekiga.

Poster art for TatsumiIn Tatsumi, the director Eric Khoo incorporates five of Tatsumi’s stories, all written in the 1970s, into an animated tribute that seeks to vivify this artist’s controversial, fearless work. It’s potent stuff, delving into pornography, incest, murder and mutilation in the company of alienated men and unhappy, sometimes cruel women. Resonating with the deeply felt shame of a lost war (Mr. Tatsumi was 10 when the atom bomb fell on Hiroshima), these twisted and often touching tales express their author’s rage at a booming economy that failed to lift every boat.

‘I vomited it out in stories,’ he tells us in the mostly gentle narration that accompanies the film’s biographical segments, excerpted from his autobiography, A Drifting Life. Rendered in rather wishy-washy pastels, these segments offer only broad personal details, including how he drew comics at a young age to support his poor family and dealt with the envy of his sickly brother.

By contrast, the moody, mostly black-and-white samples of his art have a tough urgency that leaps from the screen: from the harrowing first story, set in a razed Hiroshima, to the closing tale of a prostitute who has been betrayed one too many times, they mold pulpy drama and moral complexity into a transfixing whole. Capturing the mood of a troubled time, Tatsumi is a fine, if frustratingly indistinct, portrait of an artist ripe for rediscovery.

– Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times


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