by Chris MaGee
It's been a busy few days since the start of Filmex here in Tokyo, but not all of the running about has been taking place for me at the festival site. Regular trips to the Yurakucho Asahi Hall in the Mullion Building (above)and the Togeki Theater are indeed part of the schedule here, but making the 6,700 mile trip to Tokyo means that I definitely have to make my time here in Japan count. Along with catching some of the classic and rarely screened Shochiku films at Togeki I have been making the rounds at many other public and private screenings in the city.
This past Monday I was honoured to be asked to the home of experimental filmmaker Kanai Katsu (above). There I was given a chance to watch the work of some of Kanai-san's former students at Tokyo Image Forum. Joining us was Shinichi Tamano, a young man who Kanai describes as his "best ex-student". Tamano, whose work as been screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the International Film Festival Rotterdam, explores nonsense situations in his films with a particular eye to repetition and some very violent acrobatics by their actors.
A trip to the Tokyo Image Forum Theater has been part of this trip as well. Last night it was there that I managed to catch a screening of the work off animator Atsushi Wada. Wada has had his work included in such prestigious animation festivals as Zagreb and Ottawa and it is easy to understand why seeing them all together on one screen. Not only do Wada's short films bombard the audience with surreal imagery, but they are also some of thee funniest films I've seen in a very long time. Joining Wada (above middle) at the screening was indie DVD distributor CALF founder Nobuaki Doi (above left) and fellow animator and CALF artist Mirai Mizue (above right).
One amazing aspect of Tokyo Filmex is who you run into in the theatre lobby. I was honoured and very moved to be able to meet and briefly chat with the man who was instrumental in bringing Japanese film to international audiences - author, film historian, respected Japanologist and filmmaker in his own right Donald Richie. To simply be able to give thanks to Mr. Richie and let him know that without him there would be no people like me was a highlight of my life. He was gracious and cheerful and I will treasure the above photo of him and I forever.
Anyway, I'm off to catch what is fast beoming the buzz Japanese film at this year's Filmex, Ryusuke Hamaguchi's "The Depths". Hamaguchi, an alumni of the Tokyo University of the Arts Film Program, already wowed audiences here at Filmex two years ago with his graduating project "Passion" so everyone I have spoken to are anxious to see his sophomore film. After that will be a screening of half of NHK's "Kaidan Horror Classics" including Shinya Tsukamoto's "The Whistler" with Tsukamoto in attendance. More on that soon!