In the early years of Japanese cinema and theatre, female roles were played by men. Female impersonators were strongly unionized and could block the introduction of bona fide actresses.
The story unfolds in the 1950s. Detective Uotsuka and his wisecracking assistant, Kobayashi, are hired by the venerable Madame Cherry Blossom to rescue her daughter, Bellflower, who has been kidnapped by a certain M. Pathe & Co. The investigation turns up numerous clues and riddles, but Uotsuka and Kobayashi are baffled. Finally Uotsuka realizes the key to the case is a silent movie that was never completed: The Eternal Mystery, Some forty years earlier, the filming was interrupted by a police raid. To his amazement, Uotsuka finds himself honoring his contract with Madame Cherry Blossom by acting out the film's missing final scene. Now she and her long-lost daughter can peacefully sleep . . . so as to dream.
Comment: In <i>To Sleep, so as to Dream</i>, the aging actress has lived into the 1950s but she views the world through the eyes of the 1920s, the period when her fame was at its height. Signs of 1950s life intrude (the automobiles, the music), but she (and we) can ignore them, lost as we are in the world of the past, the late 1920s, as created by its movies.
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