Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nippon Connection Update: Day 3

by Chris MaGee

Well, yesterday hit the mid-waqy mark for the 11th annual Nippon Connection Film Festival, and despite the recent tragedies in Japan this year appears to be one of the most successful yet. In fact with Japan making headlines day after day here in Germany the profile of the showcase o9f Japanese film and culture may have been raised. IK was speaking with Nippon Connection head Marion Klomfass and while she was a bit concerned that people here in Frankfurt might have reached the saturation point with all things Japan since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami it turns out the exact opposite has proven true. It also helps that for day three the Nippon Connection programmers managed snag some very high profile films.

Day three started off with the German premiere of "The Borrower Arriety", the latest animated flight of fancy by Studio Ghibli. The main Nippon Cinema theatre was sold out, but with an audience that I haven't been used to seeing at screening here -- a nice mix of teens, goth loli young adults, Japanese women some young, but many middle-ged, and a healthy representation of the otaku set (not including us of course...) While this directorial debut for Hiromasa Yonebayashi may not be the strongest Ghibli film out of the gate in recent memory it still has all the hallmarks of one of their cherished productions -- top quality animation, wonderful attention to detail and a strong main heroine. Check back in coming weeks for our full review.

There were a couple other sell out screenings of note for day three, one being an unlikely festival buzz film, the other a straight up crowd p[leaser. The former is Koji Shiraishi's horror mockumentary "Shirome". The film features J-pop girl band Momoiro Clover as they get taken into a haunted house where all may not be what it seems. You can check out the trailer below, and while you may say "Isn't this just another late-in-coming low budget J-horror flick?" this is a film that has gotten a lot of people talking here at the fest. The second of the unlikely sell out screenings was Renpei Tsukamoto's "Wig". It follows a mid-30's salaryman with thinning hair as he rewrites his destiny with the help of a hair piece. The film doesn't break any new cinematic or comedic territory with it's mix of absurdity and slapstick at all, but the crowd couldn't get enough. Could be a contender for this year's audience award??? Maybe....

Of special note on Friday was a lecture given by University of Leeds PHD student Julian Ross titled "Shinjuku Thieves". It charted the cross-pollinations and collaborations between the worlds of fine arts, literature and performing arts in the avant-garde milieux of Tokyo in the 1960's and early 70's. Fascniating stuff, much enjoyed by the full lecture room.

Besides the bread and butter of Nippon Connection -- the films -- Marc and I continue to make the party scene at night, belting out classic tunes in the karaoke lounge with the folks from Midnight Eye and the festival crew. Let's hope and pray that these drunken performances don't find their way onto YouTube, thank you very much. More tomorrow on day four and the very late night we're anticipating with the big Saturday night party with the very appropriate theme of Help Japan.

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