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MARCEL MARCEAU, THE MAN WHO HAS been hailed as "the greatest living exponent of the mime," walked into the Tokyo Press Club to meet the gentlemen of the Fourth Estate.

His reputation had preceded him by more than 60 days.

With photographers and newsreel cameramen lighting the way, M. Marceau, a dapper Frenchman with a receding hairline, spoke lovingly of pantomime as an art.

"Everywhere I go I find a great understanding of the mime," said Marceau. "I do not find French or American laughter and tears ... but the laughter and tears of people as a whole."

And Marceau is in a good position to know. He has performed in 22 countries and broke up a tour of the States — where he scared a solid conquest of Broadway — to bring his silent talents to Japan.

"The American critics seemed to understand' what I was doing," beamed Marceau. "They knew the history behind the mime as it is performed today."

Speaking in almost flawless English, Marceau had high praise for Japanese Kabuki and Noh plays. "I am a great admirer of Noh," said he. "It is one of the earliest forms of the mime and we French can learn much from the Japanese ... They can learn nothing from us ... We can only present the mime in a new form."

Marceau will give 10 'performances at Tokyo's Sankei Hall, beginning with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Tickets are available at Sankei Hall and all Play Guides.

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