It’s not often one finds a period film born of reverent, deeply researched cinephilia that is also a rip-roaring slapstick comedy suitable for the whole family, but the utterly adorable “Talking the Pictures” fits just that double bill. Directed with supremely good-natured verve by Suo Masayuki, who worked a similarly lovable if slightly more grown-up groove in 1996 with international hit “Shall We Dance
?,” it’s a loopy caper inspired by, of all arcane things, the Japanese tradition of benshi — live narrators of silent films who became regional celebrities in their own right. As colorfully designed and meticulously costumed a re-creation of early-20th-century, small-town Japan as you will find in any more grandiose genre, it’s equally.
Umeko and Shuntaro meet first as mischievous children — Umeko the lonely, cute-as-a-button daughter of an itinerant prostitute and Shuntaro a rambunctious local scamp staying just out of the grasp of his mustachioed police officer nemesis.