by Chris MaGee
The biggest news of the film festival circuit right now is the upcoming 33rd annual Toronto International Film Festival, running here in my hometown from September 10th to the 19th. We've already had word of Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Air Doll" and Hitoshi Matsumoto's "Symbol" being a part of this year's line-up, but we all knew that there would be at least a few more films from Japan, but we had no idea which films exactly. Well, now we know. Yesterday the official announcements of the Vanguard, Discovery programmes as well as the fest's special presentations came out and in amongst a crop of great films from around the globe it looks like the TIFF programmers have included some very high profile treats for Japanese cinema lovers.
In the Vanguard programme we have actor Koji Yakusho's directorial debut "Toad's Oil(Gama no Abura), an unlikely comedy about a father (Yakusho) and son (Eita) dealing with the fallout of a tragic accident involving the son's girlfriend, while the Discovery programme has "German + Rain" director Yokohama Satoko's sophomore film "Ultra Miracle Love Story", re-titled "Bare Essence of Life" which stars Ken'ichi Matsuyama as a mentally-challenged farm boy who develops an unlikely relationship with a woman from the city, played by Kumiko Aso. If you don't get enough Ken'ichi Matsuyama in "Bare Essence of Life" you'll get to see him in the long-awaited live-action adaptation of Sanpei Shirato's classic manga "Kamui Gaiden" directed by Yochi Sai and written by Kankuro Kudo.
Quite the impressive line-up of Japanese films thus far at TIFF, but is it just me or are there those obscure little gem kind of films missing from the bunch? Last year we had films like Ryosuke Hashiguchi's "All Around s" and Hajime kadoi's "Vacation", two films without big names or big budgets that ended up walking away with the lion's share of the critical acclaim. We might have to look for that inventive indie spirit in Gaspar Noe's "Into the Void", the French/ German/ Italian co-production shot in Japan about the life and death of a drug dealer in Tokyo. Well, you never know... There could still be some more Japanese film surprises in the TIFF line-up yet.