by Chris MaGee
Well, I'm kind of working on a lag here, as I'm technically in the third day of Nippon Connection, but being run off my feet seeing about four or five films a day, networking, and planning for my interview with Kazuyoshi Kumakiri and Ryuichi Honda tomorrow night at 10:30 p.m. has left me very strapped for time. It turns out that the interview that I had thought was arranged just with Honda, Kumakiri and myself in a room here at the fest is actually going to be a round table discussion with me as moderator. All I can say is that it's a real, real honour to be asked to do this! I did see both Honda's "GS Wonderland" about the Group Sounds pop explosion in Japan in the 1960's, and Kumakiri's surprisingly tender "Non-ko". I say surprisingly tender because Kumakiri is probably best known in North America via Arts Magic's DVD release of his debut film "Kichiku: Banquet of the Beasts", a film so gory and violent that I think Kumakiri scarred me mentally with it. This should be a really interesting interview.
In terms of what the past 24 hours have held besides being busy, busy, busy... There's a couple of unfortunate bits of news here at Nippon Connection. Due to some crossed wires between Movie-Eye Entertainment, Nippon Connection and the Munich Film Festival The screenings of Shinya Tsukamoto's "Nightmare Detective 2" have been cancelled and been replaced with screenings of Fumihiko Sori's "Ichi" starring Haruko Ayase as the blind swordsman... I mean swordswoman... herself. If I can stay awake tonight that will be my last film of the day.
Also many of you out there will have heard that Sion Sono's 4-hour epic "Love Exposure" is screening here at Nippon Connection. It is, but only with an HD print with German subtitles. I may have some Japanese, but I speak no German, so us English speakers are left out of this one... but the good news is that the fest has made an English-subtitled DVD available for press and guests to take a look at. Guess who'll be sitting in the basement screening room tomorrow to check that out?
That's the gossip and name-dropping out of the way, so now onto what I think is my favorite film, or films, of the fest so far. Alex and the other programmers have put together three short films in the Nippon Digital Programme from an all female filmmakers collective based out of Tokyo who call themselves Peaches (You can check out their Japanese language site here), and damned if they haven't been the most compelling examples of filmmaking that've seen here thus far. Two of the Peaches directors are here to present their films: Yumiko Beppu whose "Csikospost" (above) is a really sweet and funny tale of a little girl who dreams of finding a mother for her single father, and Mayumi Yabe, who has produced a truly startling and disturbing journey in a family plagued by abuse and murder in "Bunny in Hovel". Aki Sato, whose "emerger" rounds out the trio of films, couldn't make it the fest and it's a terrible shame because this 42-minute minute short is probably one of my favorite Japanese films in recent memory. You can bet that I'm ging to dedicate a full review to this when I get back in Toronto, but for now here's a brief synopsis: Fusaki Urabe who blew me away with her performance in Masahiro Kobayashi's 2005 drama "Bashing" stars as Sawa, a woman who is stuck in her high rise apartment recovering from a broken neck and leg. It seems her husband Koichi is more interested in fishing than paying her any attention, so she spends her time trolling for sex online and emailing any potential takers to meet her at the love hotel opposite her place. Most guys don't find a woman in a neck brace and hobbling on crutches to be a hot catch, so Sawa contents herself with scanning the hotel's visitors with a pair of binoculars. It's through these that she sees a man named Mochizuki getting beat up by a gang of thugs. She takes him in, cleans him up, and discovers that he's looking for his ex-lover, a man, outside the same hotel. These two lonely souls form an unlikely voyeuristic alliance, but as the film progresses we find out that all is not what it seems to be. Somehow, someway I'm going to try and get this film shown in Toronto. It's an amazing piece of work!
Well, I'm off to catch Yuki Tanada's "Ain't No Tomorrows", a film that is garnering a lot of postive buzz here, but I'll leave you with the something that audiences of the Nippon Digital programme have been seeing a lot of this week. "Catman" are short Flash-animated shorts created by Ryosuke Aoike, an Osaka-born and now Montreal-based indie filmmaker, that follow the debauched and deranged advetures of a Catman all set to the bopping ska music of Canada's own Planet Smashers. Until tomorrow folks... Enjoy!