It is a Vintage Year for Films

 Wednesday, April 6, 2011


April has arrived and the Cannes Film Festival is looming.

Although applications have already closed I have heard

rumours that it is favouring everything except Japanese films.

However, I always try to ignore these rumours otherwise

I end wasting time on a wild-goose chase.


The Cannes Film Festival is the largest of its kind in the world, of course.

What kind of films are in it's line-up this year.

As per usual I wonder about this.

As of this weekend the "lid is completely closed".


There are a lot of producers from around the world

who are in different states of play. Some have already been

rejected; some anxiously waiting an unofficial offer;

and some have already had an unofficial offer so are busy

re-arranging their schedule and preparations.

It all comes to a head this weekend.


There is not much room for conjecture, but the North American

market tends to aim its hope toward the Sundance Film Festival

in January, whilst all other territories usually aim at the

Cannes Film Festival in May. For independent film makers it is good

to view the works being considered for prizes to create an index

of what is trending in the world.


So, I am going to cast my eyes on this years notable projects.


This year has the feel of a good vintage.


News films are expected from Pedro Almodovar, David Cronenberg,

Won Kar-wai, the Dardenne Brothers, Lars von Trier, Aki Kaurismäki,

Bela Tarr etc.

A certain industry magazine is very excited by the prospect

that these films occupy the half of its competition program at Cannes.


Won Kar-wai's new film is the story of Ip Man, who is said to be

the master of the martial art used by Bruce Lee. Though this story

has been filmed before with Donnie Yen in the title role,

Tony Leung is starring in War Kar-wai's take on the tale.

He had to train very hard for the role. I heard that Zhang Ziyi is

also performing in the film. I think she is not the young innocent

she was in the film THE ROAD HOME.

I suppose that although the film is complete a release date in

Hong Kong has not been set, based on the assumption that

it will be chosen for Cannes, of course! The film is called THE GRANDMASTERS.

We can imagine the film contents from this title, can't we.


The Spanish grand-master Pedro Almodovar is readying his

new film THE SKIN I LIVE IN, starring his old friend Antonio Banderas.

It is the story of a plastic surgeon who's wife is killed in a car accident,

and who is developing a new sort of skin. It has already sold in

most countries at the planning stage. Very impressive!


David Cronenberg's A DANGEROUS METHOD, stars

Vigo Mortensen and co-stars Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley

and Vincent Cassel.  I have to say this must be an unembellished film,

by the producer of director Takashi Miike's 13 ASSASSINS,

and who did Kitano's BROTHER and GOHATTO, plus DEPARTURES.

He previously produced Cronenberg's CRASH.

Yap,he is an old friend of Cronenberg.


Aki Kaurismäki is trying to come to the Cannes Film Festival,

for the first time in 5 years, with his new film LE HAVRE.

It is the tale of a cobbler, who lives in a small Finnish town,

and takes on the responsibility for a refugee African child.

It sounds like a very human comedy.


Oscar winner Lasse Hallstöm is prepping his new film



Fondly remember director Jean-Jacques Arnoud is making

the historical drama film BLACK GOLD in Tunisia and Qatar

at the moment.  It has an amazing sky high budget for

an independent film (from Japanese producer’s perspective),

of fifty billion yen.


Lars von Triers ANTICHRIST caused controversy at the Cannes

before last and is now being released in Japan.  His new film

MELANCHOLIA stars Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsburg.

I hear the film which starts with "end of the world" is

a psychological disaster movie. It has already been sold into

25 countries. Given that it opens on the 26th May in Denmark

means it will be ready for Cannes.


Furthermore, director Hirokazu Kore-Eda's I WISH is on the 2011

lineup from Japan. Also expected are films from Roland Emmerich,

Lynne Ramsey, Steve McQueen and, ladies and gentlemen, Madonna!!


I WISH had been derided at the end of last year as being

just an extended PR film for the new bullet train,

which was fully opened to passenger traffic in the Kyûshû

region on the 12th March.


However, director Kore-Eda is a regular at Cannes.

He enjoys great popularity in France, and is hopeful of being

at Cannes due to the support he receives from the major

sales agent in France, The Wild Bunch. They purchased the film

at the beginning of this year.

Hum,,,, that's why the release was postponed until June...

well, I am not sure.


By the way, Joe Odagari who portrays a school boy's father,

has become a father in real life. He has now opened up

new territory for his film roles.


Then, there are all the new films crammed together in addition

to these regulars. It is a vintage year.


I hear that Brillante Mendoza, from the Philippines, film PREY,

is already being praised as a masterpiece so is to being

considered for Cannes. Also works by Nanni Moretti, Gus van Sant,
Lou Ye, Alexander Payne, André Techine and Pen-ek Ratanaraung.

Todd Hayne's spectacular 5 hour long film MILDRED PIERCE

is also Cannes bound. (But, this is a film made for HBO television.

It must be well made as it stars Kate Winslet).


Then there are lots of rumours, that we have no good reason

to believe, so please do not pay any attention to them.


The official public announcements will be on the 14th April.


By the way, Terrence Malick's

THE TREE OF LIFE, starring Brad Pitt has been announced as
one of the official selection film, already.


I hear that it is the story of the life of three sons and

their conflicts with their father, performed by Pitt, in the 1950's.

Sean Penn plays the adult character of Jack, one of the sons.

How can he overcome his birth trauma and truly understand

his family & parents?

"I can forgive you now, my father"... in this way?

So far as I can see it seems to relate to the philosophy

of universal truth. It shows us the power of Gaia.

This film has as its themes - the meaning of being born;

human relationships and reconsidering being part of nature.

I am really interested in this film. I want to watch it.


This is a very convincing opening film at the world’s most

anticipated film festival, Cannes.


The poster, the trailer and using the music Vltava (The Moldau)"

seem very good.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Japanese director Takahisa Zeze's 278-minute opus on crime and punishment.
from The Hollywood Reporter (c) 2010 Heaven's Project

At the Berlin International Film Festival in Germany,
which has been ended two weeks now, I think it is a bit late to talk about
but maybe I should. Because....

Director Takahisa Zeze's film HEAVEN'S STORY won the Best Asian Film
Award and the International Critics Association Award.
The film participated in the Forum section, which is for novel films.

Japanese directors have won the International Critics Association Award
for three consecutive years. Sion Sono's LOVE EXPOSURE,
the year before last, and Isao Yukisada's PARADE last year.

Though almost all of the news broadcasts stated, without hesitation,
that "it won the award", but what sort of award is this?
Two of the films that Japanese directors won this award for
are very long; in fact over four hours long!!!

Let me see, I am interested in reviewing the criteria.
Even Wikipedia does not give a clear picture as the awards are not
Why doesn't the media add a bit more explanation for the likes of me.

Even the official Berlin International Film Festival website only gives it
a simple description. I am non the wiser.
This makes me more and more interested in the award.

"What is its value?"

Berlin International Film Festival official website:

Other independent award.
Some individual judges give awards.
Some of the awards are purely for the specific section they were entered into.
The winning qualification for each film is different and depends on the
purpose of the award. These independent awards are FIPRESCI Award,
Ecumenical Jury Award, Golden Bear Award , etc.

This is all the website states. So no real meaning in any of that.

This time I decided to look further into the awards although
I am getting fed up with trying to understand them.

First of all, FIPRESCI is from the International Federation of Film Critics.
According to their website the purpose of the award is as follows.
"The purpose of the FIPRESCI award is for the furtherance of film art
and to encourage young directors".

It means, that the award is chosen from the viewpoint of the
International Federation of Film Critics from the films shown at
each of the film festivals around the world by judges
who are appointed by the International Federation of Film Critics.
It is not an award conferred by the Berlin International Film Festival.

In other words, the judges are not appointed by the festival.
This is what is really means.

Now I see.

More than three and less than nine judges are appointed.
Incidentally, the judges this year are: Diego Lerer
(who is he? But he is the head judge);
And Kenichi Ôkubo.
What a surprise!
He is a Japanese commentator who looks kindly on young talent.

I don't know about the rest of the judges so
I will just keep a record of their names:
Joao Antunes, Jurica Pavicic, Ingeborg Bratoeva,
Daniela Sannwald, Carmen Gray, Gulnara Abikeyeva and Silvia Hallensleben.

The International Federation of Film Critics has members all over the world.
The Japan Movie Pen Club is a member,
hence Kenichi Ôkubo taking part as a judge this year.

I see.

By the way, one more point is on my mind.

When I read the article I feel into the misapprehension that
director Zeze only won the International Critics Association Award,
in fact, this award is chosen from the Competition, Forum and
Panorama sections. Director Zeze was elected from the Forum section.

Well, Director Zeze won another award.
This was the Best Asian Film Award (commonly called the NETPAC Award),
which is an abbreviation for the Network for the promotion of Asian Cinema.
So this is an award from an organisation that aims at the global promotion of
Asian films.

Here the members are critics, authorised film festival personnel, curators,
distribution and entertainment participants. It has a headquarters in S'pore.
I heard that "it was established to increase the exposure of
young Asian talent".

However, the members from Japan are the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute,
the film commentator Mr Kenichi Ôkubo, Mr Tadao Satô,
and Mark Schilling from the Japanese National Press.
That's all; that's four people (organisations).
These aren't distribution and entertainment participants.

Jia Zhangke, Stanley Kwan, Lee Chang-dong, Kim Ki-duk, Naomi Kawase
and Yôichi Sai from Japan have been selected.
Director Koji Wakamatsu's UNITED RED ARMY received the winning prize
at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival.
This is still fresh in our memory.

Are you sure that it supports young talent?

Director Wakamatsu is a contemporary of Clint Eastwood in both in terms of
age and career. It gives me some doubts.

There were three other competition selections this year apart from at the
Berlin International Film Festival.

The judges this year were Lorna Tee, Pimpaka Towira and Nora Bierich.
Lorna Tee is a Malaysian producer. She co-produced COME RAIN,COME SHINE,
which was selected as the sole Asian film in the Competition section.

Incidentally, two Japanese films have won a NETPAC Award.
Director Yû Irie's SR: SAITAMA RAPPER at the 2009 Puchon International
Fantastic Film Festival, and Director Minoru Kurimura's MESHI TO OTOME
at the 2010 Moscow International Film Festival..

By the way, although I am looking into these awards,
it is not just to be able to criticise them.

However, the more I read about them, the more it might add a nuance of
meaning that a Japanese director like Zeze can gain recognition from cineasts
around the world in Berlin, which is one of the three big film festivals
in the world.

Surely in this day and age, when trends come out of nowhere due to Twitter
or Facebook, it should be possible to convey the essential value of this award
and to promote it's universal excellence.
This is just my opinion.

"Who" gave this award, for what "tastes" and for "what reason"?

Director Zeze has made a grand film, which is four and a half hours long,
and has delivered it to the world.
Although it will be very hard for it to become a commercial product,
his courage and capacity to portray an insight into humanity has won him
the highest praise from both Asian and worldwide critics who support
independent films.

I think this is the essential ingredient of this award.

I am sure the reason for it's winning the award is due to the
"director's resolution not to just chase the money".

So, when director Hayao Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY won the Golden Bear
Award at the Berlin International Film Festival,
it was a story of a different quality.
(It doesn't mean that Miyazaki was just after commercial viability).

"So what, it won an award in Berlin.
It's not that important to the Japanese film business".
If we misinterpret this point, box office success can't be gained by winning a prize.
I think this sort of feeling is starting to infiltrate the industry as a whole,
which is not good in my opinion.

Director Zeze said that he is "deeply moved to know that my film is shown and
praised throughout the world".

Don't you think we can now get to know the background
and that director’s comment will live on?

Only animated films and Toho films are getting large audience attendances,
and nowadays independent films are being buried.
It would be great if we could convey sufficiently well to general audiences
a film's standing. I think like that.

Film is a composite art.

Some are totally artistic; some are completely commercial.
Both are intermixed in this world.

What does the director want to say?
How does the world appraise?

I think it is time that a film should be in it's correct standing position
and that audiences are allowed to appraise it themselves.

In that way, every year the award winning Japanese films can convey
to the world the significant message that Japanese films are worthy.


When I have been to film festivals all over the world I hear plaudits for
Akira Kurosawa(!), even now.
"Speaking of Japanese film directors, Akira Kurosawa is the only one.
Nobody can exceed him".

This is the reality.

How many years has Kurosawa been in this ruling position?

I want someone to exceed Kurosawa and I want you to change the order of
things in the world of Japanese films.
I would welcome such a person entering the industry and
I would be unstinting in my logistical support for you.

Half of the population might say,
"Why do we have to get world recognition?",

and the other probably say,

"Why don't we get world recognition?"

Neither position makes any difference to me,
but if no opposing view appeared at all the film industry would be a
very dull place. Don't you think so?

I am getting excited about seeing Nagatomo (Yûto Nagatomo)
playing for the Milan International Football Club.
I was excited when Mokkun (Masahiro Motoki) went to the Academy Awards

Don't you want that level of excitement?

Well, by the way, director Akira Kurosawa didn't make films for the world market.
The point of the argument is not whether it "is for the Japanese market or
the world market". I don't want you to misunderstand this point.

Ah, however, it is four hours and thirty-eight minutes.
What a long film.
In total it is nine chapters.
I really need considerable energy to go the cinema.

Well, the trailer is already too long.
Monday 14, February 2011
in Berlin

I thought it was time to go back to my hotel as I was dozing
at my desk in the booth.

Then a female representative from the
Chinese National TV (CCTV) came up to me and said,
"We have New Year's Day in China now,
 so please say Happy New Year to all the people in China".
So I said "Happy New Year" into the camera,
whilst holding a stuffed soft rabbit toy.

I am a person who thinks
"all grist that comes to my mill".
Some French people were standing nearby and talking,
so I forced them to speak in Portuguese.

My friend, Nicola pleaded,
"I can't speak Portuguese. Please can I speak in French".
However, the audacious female director said,
"Oh, sorry, we have already finished with the French",
and turned down his request unceremoniously.

So in the end he was forced to speak in Portuguese.

It was reckless, and furthermore he was speaking in a foreign language for him,
so he had a lot of retakes.
During the filming he was sweating, but he did a good job.

Of course, afterwards he told me off. He said,
"Don't do that again".

Don't worry the programme is not shown in France or Portugal.
However, we can watch CCTV in Japan, but its PAY TV.
Fortunate enough, YOU TUBE is free.  

(I hope Nicholas won't find me though....)


Hollywood Shops European Remake

Monday,  14 February 2011

This is the topic covered this morning by a film industry journal.

Egyptian film "678" strongly pushed by Fortissiomo
In China, 313 new cinemas opened last year,
and the number of screens increased by 1,533.
Moreover, another 1,000 screens will open this year.
I roughly calculate that this makes about 300 new seats a day.

America has one screen per 9 thousand people,
whereas China has one per 200 hundred thousand people.
However, China still does not have enough cinemas.
I heard that although 512 films were made only 150 films opened to the public.
I guess at the moment China is going to need to build more and more cinemas.

However, the situation for foreign films in China is not a happy one.
SARFT's strict import regulations are as tight as ever, in allowing
only 20 foreign films to be released in a year.
This wall stands in our way. Six French films managed to slid safely
into the Chinese market last year,
and the rest were mostly Hollywood productions.

my booth neighbor Eliot is selling
the first Chinese 3D animation feature.
I heard that the executives in Hollywood are
now bored with remaking Japanese films and have been
struggling hard to remake European films or make films
based on European original stories.

"This is good! OK. Let's make the film on a large scale budget.
We have the potential to make a blockbuster film here in Hollywood".
This is their attitude. It seems that their favourite genres are
horror, thrillers and science fiction.
They are always overlooking the world.
I think it is okay, but I wonder as they are the world leaders
whether they could do with creating something new.

I wonder is it popular worldwide to make money by rehashing ideas.
Chris Nolan is really amazing. I have to appraise him anew.

By the way, I heard that Madonna was in Berlin
to show the film FOOTAGE directed by her.
At the moment it has sold to Germany, France, Italy, Spain,
Russia, South America and Scandinavia. 

What about America? 

Madonna said, "If it sells when I am attending,
then I must go everywhere in the world to help the sales". 
Let's have her come to Japan to promote her film!
But, wait a minute, we have a complete failure.
We can't attract customers with the
catchphrase, "Madonna is the director".
The film is a love story about Edward III and an American divorced woman,
plus another love story about a modern married woman and a Russian security guard.
These two love stories run in parallel throughout the film.
I feel I don't care already.

I am happy with her as an attractive singer,
even if she is getting older, because she is "Madonna". 

Anyway, a film about the collapsed mine in Chile
has already been made and is being shown on screen.
That is really quick. What a surprise.

There is also a film about current issue "GOODBYE MUBARAK, Egypt Revolusion". 
It reveals the truth about sexual harrasement in Egypt is being
advertised energettically now,
although it was a taboo subject under the Egyptian regime.
In an image from the film I can see a woman in a really crowded train
and looking really disgusted.
I can guess she has been molested.
It might gain sympathy in Japan.
I have had lot of the same experiences on the Tôkaidô line in Japan.

Well, today is the fifth day and it is a fine morning in Berlin.

Tuesday, 2 February, 2011

cont'd from previous blog entry.

I really love this "new tiger". 
I bought T-shirts, bags, etc., etc.,

At the New York Film Festival the year before last,
the festival director Marc Walkow and my assistant donned a sumo loincloth.
My assistant sent this as a picture message to me,
and I could see that they were very happy.

It seems that foreigners like the loincloth look.
I heard that Mr Iguchi also wears a loincloth at stage greetings,
wherever and whenever.

Japanese loincloths have lots of overseas fans.


Maybe women cannot understand it,
but at the Rotterdam International Film Festival it was tolerated by audiences
at the freaky performances. The audiences are mixed age groups,
both young and old, but they have a good laugh at the performance, obviously.

In 2009, Joe Odagiri's debut film directing project
LOOKING FOR CHERRY BLOSSOMS was invited to the festival.

(c) 2008 STYLEJAM, Inc.

Mr Odagiri, Mr Sabu Kawahara and Mr Hiroshi Yamada,
the three main actors, appeared in the style of "A Clockwork Orange".
They were all dressed in black and wore bowler hats.
The fans in Rotterdam were very happy to see them.

Although they were all wearing the same style,
Mr Odagiri looked in perfect taste,
but Mr Kawahara and Mr Yamada were a bit…

Joe's interview in Rotterdam by TWITCH

well anyway, they were the funny trio at the festival.

Ooops, I forgot to tell Mr Junichi Inoue, the scriptwriter,
and main actress Kan Hanae-chan
who were invited to attend with the film PURE ASIA,
about the festival atmosphere.

I am sure that Junichi thinks that he regrets like
"Oh... I wanted to do some sort of performance."

The Netherlands are the land of liberty.
The lack of common sense is no problem!

I like that!


yuko shiomaki

Author:yuko shiomaki
pictures dept. co. ltd.
films sales and distribution
company specialized in
international film sales,
PR and marketing to
introduce & deliver quality
films to the global market.