Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Director Yojiro Takita sets records, spawns a stage play and goes back to his roots in Austin

by Chris MaGee

Okay, that headline is a bit misleading - Yojiro Takita, the man who directed this year's Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film "Departures" isn't doing all the above in Austin, Texas. Let me back track a bit.

First up Takita (above right), along with screenwriter Kundo Koyama and actor Masahiro Motoki (above left), were on hand at the Shinjuku Piccadilly Theater recently to mark the anniversary of their film screening for an entire year at the movie theatre in Tokyo. "Departures", which tells the story of Daigo Kobayashi (played by Motoki), an out of work cellist who returns to his hometown and takes a job as an encoffiner, opened at the theatre on September 18th, 2008 and it's still bringing in ticket buyers almost a year later. Thanks to Japan Today for this one.

While this momentous theatrical run is news, what isn't news is that "Departures" has enjoyed astounding success worldwide with it's universal themes and bittersweet mix of drama and comedy. This success is now being translated for a different type of theatre with a stage version of "Departures" set to open at the Akasaka ACT Theater in Tokyo on May 28th. In the stage production Kobayashi will be portrayed by 27-year-old kabuki actor Kantaro Nakamura (Zen) while Kobayashi's wife originally played by Ryoko Hirosue will be portrayed by Rena Tanaka. After its Tokyo run "Departures: The Play" will go on to tour Osaka and Nagoya, but sadly Tokita, Motoki and Koyama said at the Shinjuku Piccadilly event that they have nothing to do with this stage version.

There's no doubt that "Departures" mania is still rippling around the world, and one aspect of this in interest in Yojiro Takita's career before he became a household name. That means that people are slowly but surely uncovering the fact that the 54-year-old Tokita got his start in filmmaking in the world of pink films, specifically his "Train Molestor" series of softcore sex films. One place that North American fans will be in Austin,Texas (See? You were wondering when I'd get back to the headline) at this year's Fantastic Fest. The genre festival running from September 24th to October 1st at the Alamo Drafthouse will feature Takita;s 1984 entry into the series "Train Molester: Wedding Capriccio" on Sunday, September 27th at 4:15PM. It all comes back to Austin even though it all doesn't happen there...

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