26th TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : THE REPORT (1)
26th TOKYO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL : THE REPORT (1)
Shared the same acronym with Toronto International Film Festival within their contiguous months of the event, The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) has reached its 26th year since first established in 1985. Became an annual event from 1991, Tokyo International Film Festival is one of Asia’s most competitive film festivals, and the only international film festival in Japan which accredited by the FIAPF (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films / International Federation of Film Producers Association). Their affiliated film market named Tiffcom also became one of the largest through Asia.
The highest award of TIFF, Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix, will be handed to the best film among the competition section, and there are also the Special Jury Award and Best Actor, Actress and Director Awards. Along with its new focus to show both new and accomplished talents, one of the most interesting thing in TIFF is always its balance in bringing various forms and genres among the lineups, from indies, art cinemas to pop movies, including many special tributes to Asian classics ; from their own to many others.
The 26th Edition
As in recent years, the event still held in Roppongi Hills with its famous Toho Cinema. Packed with Press & Industry to Public Screenings, special appearances from the filmmakers and actors, with symposiums and discussions too, this year’s TIFF, which held from October 17 to 25, will also introduce the open-air screenings called ‘Cinema Caravan’. From some well known international film festival, this new concept of being able to ‘play with the earth’ through five special senses in watching movies as a unique journey, now coming to TIFF. Becoming back as a star-studded international film festivals, under the new festival director, Yasushi Shiina, this year’s TIFF attended by some big names in world’s movie industries. The festival muse is the famous international young actress Chiaki Kuriyama, widely known in ‘Battle Royale’ and particularly as Go-Go Yubari in ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’.
In the main competition category, there are 15 films selected over almost a thousand candidates by the Members of International Competition Jury, consists of film director Chen Kaige (President) and Chris Weitz, film producer Chris Brown and two famous actress, Moon So-Ri from Korea and Shinobu Terajima from Japan. As Yasushi Shiina said, it’s not particularly by means, but there are special themes in the final selection, about ‘resistance’, that running among them, and these are the standout works that also depicting distinct personalities and characteristics of each filmmakers.
Movies In Competition Section :
Au Revoir l’été (Japan – USA / Koji Fukada)
Barber’s Tales (Phillipines / Jun Robies Lana)
Bending The Rules (Iran / Behnam Behzadi),
Blind Dates (Georgia / Levan Koguashvili)
Disregarded People (Japan / Hideo Sakaki)
The Double (UK / Richard Ayoade)
Drinking Buddies (USA / Joe Swanberg)
The Empty Hours / Las Horas Muertas (Mexico – France – Spain / Aarόn Fernandez)
Love Is A Perfect Crime (France – Switzerland / Arnaud Larrieu & Jean-Marie Larrieu)
Of Horses And Men (Iceland / Benedikt Erlingsson)
Red Family (Korea / Lee Ju-hyoung)
Singing Women (Turkey – Germany – France / Reha Erdem)
Those Happy Years (Italy – France / Danielle Luchetti)
To Live And Die In Ordos (China / Ning Ying)
We Are The Best! (Sweden / Lukas Moodysson).
The second section is ‘Special Screenings’, which like in recent festivals, assembled of advance viewings of highly anticipated films scheduled for theatrical release. They come in wide variety of genres and countries , from independent movies, festival nominee – winners, animated movies and also blockbusters. This year’s opening film is Paul Greengrass’ ‘Captain Phillips’, a thrilling action biopic stars Tom Hanks which already getting rave reviews from international critics, and the closing film is Koki Mitani’s ‘The Kiyosu Conference’, an epic true story of a warlord’s successor. ‘The Kiyosu Conference’ in fact is the first Japanese movie to close the festival.
Dokidoki! Pretty Cure The Movie : Memoirs Of The Future (Animated / Japan / Naoyuki Ito)
The Dust Of Time (Greece – Germany – Canada – Russia / Theo Angelopoulos)
Oh! Father (Japan / Michihito Fujii)
The Best Offer (Italy / Giuseppe Tornatore)
Behind The Candelabra (USA / Steven Soderbergh)
Patema Inverted (Animated / Japan / Yasuhiro Yoshiura)
Jinx!!! (Japan / Naoto Kumazawa)
It All Began When I Met You (Japan / Katsuhide Motoki)
The Sessions (USA / Ben Lewin)
Parkland (USA / Peter Landesman)
Bilocation (Japan / Mari Asato)
Ties (Japan / Akira Uchikata)
A Tale Of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story (Japan / Yuzo Asahara)
The Bling Ring (USA – France – UK – Japan – Germany / Sofia Coppola)
Bayonetta : Bloody Fate (Animated / Japan / Fuminori Kizaki)
Makkhi (India / S.S. Rajamouli)
Malavita (USA – France / Luc Besson)
The Railway Man (Australia – UK / Jonathan Teplitzky)
The Kiyosu Conference (Japan / Koki Mitani)
Along with those sections, there are the inaugural ‘Asian Future’ ; a new competition section featuring debut or second features by up and coming directors from Asia and Middle East. Reviving the spirit of promising and abundant young filmmakers around the world, this section will have film director Shinji Aoyama (‘Blackwater’, ‘TokyoPark’), film curator from Hong Kong International Film Festival Jacob Wong, and Japan’s senior film journalist Koichi Nojima.
Movies in Asian Future Section :
Nobody’s Home (Turkey / Deniz Akcay)
Paat (Iran / Amir Toodehrosta)
Bhopal – A Prayer For Rain (India / Ravi Kumar)
Rekorder (Phillipine / Mikhail Red)
The Tale Of Iya (Japan / Tetsuichiro Tsuta)
Tinker Ticker (Korea / Kim Jung-Hoon)
Today And Tomorrow (China / Yang Huilong)
Rigor Mortis (Hong Kong / Juno Mak)
The section ‘World Focus’ revamped the former ‘Winds of Asia – Middle East’ and ‘World Cinema’. Features potential movies from many international film festivals, the range is also spread through various genres. And like in previous year which they have ‘Indonesia Express’ with films by Edwin – Garin Nugroho –Riri Riza and ‘Filipino Express’, this year there’s a special sub-section named ‘Taiwanese Cinema Renaissance’.
Movies in World Focus Section :
Borgman (Netherland – Belgium – Denmark / Alex van Warmerdam)
Paradise Trilogy (Austria / Ulrich Seidi)
Heli (Mexico – France – Germany – Netherlands / Amat Escalante)
Jin (Turkey – Germany / Reha Erdem)
Jodorowsky’s Dune (Documentary/ USA / Frank Pavich)
Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy (Thailand, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit)
Norte, The End Of History (Phillipine / Lav Diaz)
One Of A Kind (France / Francois Dupeyron)
A Street In Palermo (Italy – Netherland – France / Emma Dante)
Tom At The Farm (Canada – France / Xavier Dolan)
Unbeatable (Hong Kong / Dante Lam)
So Young (Hong Kong / Vicki Zhao)
What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love (Indonesia / Mouly Surya)
Movies in Taiwanese Cinema Renaissance section :
27°C Loaf Rocks (Lin Cheng-seng)
Zone Pro Site : The Movable Feast (Chen Yu-hsun)
Soul (Chung Mong-hong)
Takao Dancer (Ho Wen-shing)
Together (Hsu Chao-jen)
The Sandwich Man (Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tseng Chuang-hsiang, Wan Jen)
The last section is ‘Japanese Cinema Splash’. Also become a fresh and interesting new section, the festival’s new focus, ‘Japanese Cinema Splash’, evolved from the Japanese Eyes sections in previous years, presenting energetic Japanese young and independent filmmakers, and how they made a splash through the world stage.
Movies in Japanese Cinema Splash Section :
A Band Rabbitt and A Boy (Takuji Suzuki)
Sad Tea (Rikiya Imaizumi)
Death And Tanya (Taishi Shiode)
How Selfish I Am! (Daigo Matsui)
And The Mud Ship Sails Away (Hirobumi Watanabe)
Walking With A Friend (Akira Ogata)
There’s Nothing To Be Afraid Of (Hisashi Saito)
Forma (Ayumi Sakamoto)
Night and Keigo’s Car (Yusuke Ichikawa)
After the unexpected typhoon in October 16th, TIFF started with two P& I (Press & Industry) screenings, ‘Beyond The Memories’ (Japan / Takehiko Shinjo) and ‘Today and Tomorrow’ (China / Yang Huilong) and four public screenings before the Green Carpet event and the Opening Ceremony took places in Roppongi Hills Arena. Among the huge crowds, the festival muse Chiaki Kuriyama was the first to walk down the lane, followed by each teams from various sections. Lead by Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the most awaited Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass finally arrived to the Green Carpet.
The ceremony opened by speech from Chen Kaige as the president of Members of the International Competition Jury, followed by the festival director Yasushi Shiina and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both Kaige and Shinzo Abe cited Tom Hanks’ famous quotes from ‘Forrest Gump’, each in different meaning. With a special note that Japan movie industry will be one of their economical policy in the near future, Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass later came to the stage for the photo session, and directly presented the opening screening of ‘Captain Phillips’.
Beyond The Memories (2013, Japan / Takehiko Shinjo)
Based on a popular and bestselling manga titled ‘Kiyoku Yawaku’ by Ryo Ikuemi, this fifth feature from director Takehiko Shinjo, a name well known for box office hits through his romantic oriented movies told the love story beyond painful pasts. Eight years after the tragic accident that lead her into a fear to build any relationships, Kanna (Masami Nagasawa) meets Roku (Masaki Okada). Slowly she lets the string attached, without knowing that Roku also has to struggle against his own haunting past.
The best thing in this love story lies between its leads, the beautiful Masami Nagasawa and Japanese heartthrob Masaki Okada, who came together in a very wonderful chemistry. Yoshihiro Ike’s score also helped much bringing the romantic atmosphere with Kazuyoshi Saito’s theme song. It might felt cliché and simple, but actually, a love story beyond haunting past and innocence lost also not that easy to be told. And a good thing that Takehiko Shinjo keep the manga feel in his directing.
However, the script from Sachiko Tanaka and Satomi Oshima tried a little too much with its narrative twists along the overlong duration. Not just at some important turns they failed to grip your feelings, there are also too many distractions along its way. Not bad, but not yet can become any studies in the genre.
Rigor Mortis (2013, Hong Kong / Juno Mak)
In forensics knowledge, ‘Rigor Mortis’ defined as one of recognizable signs of death in human, a stiffness caused by chemical changes in muscles that commences after about three to four hours, reaches its maximum after 12 hours and gradually dissipates until 48 to 60 hours after death. This became an idea to Hong Kong singer –actor Juno Mak for his directorial debut, giving tributes to the long lost genre of HK movies he loved the most, the ‘Geung Si / Jiangshi’ (Chinese Vampire) genre that once became a trend in the ‘80s, brought by movies like ‘Mr. Vampire’ and many others. Produced by Japanese horror icon Takashi Shimizu from the phenomenal ‘Ju-On’ franchise, the highly anticipated ‘Rigor Mortis’ might be seen like a meta, but actually, it’s more than that, nor just tributes.
Also started with strong homage to ‘Mr. Vampire’, ‘Rigor Mortis’ told a story about a washed out actor (Chin Siu-ho) living in an old flats with bunch of retirees (played by Anthony Chan Yau, Chung Fat, Lo Hoi Pang, Kara Wai, Richard Ng and Nina Paw) after losing his son and wife. After failed to hang himself, the series of nightmarish events then comes unexpected.
The plot might be predictable, while the horror still using many same formula as Shimizu’s or other modern Asian horror those full of digital effects, but the main cast, consists of ‘80s Hong Kong formidable old cracks, that’s what really counts. Of course, with how Juno blend his new supernatural realms beyond the tributes for Geung Si genre. The production design, Ng Kai Ming’s cinematography and sound design supervised by Shimizu himself were lavishly conceived. The score by Nath Connelly was also truly emotional, and most of the horror worked as scary.
I really don’t want to spoil too much here, but if you did love the genre, here it is. Juno might be letting one important soul of the genre left abandoned and reinjected it with something new, as he and Takashi Shimizu said in the Q& A session after the screening, that at first Shimizu got offered to be a producer, this became a big question to him. Put more hearts in it, Juno was not just giving a respectable homage with original spirit all over the film. Instead, he’s boldly reinventing it. Just like what’s written in the end of ‘Rigor Mortis’, in a respect note to late Lam Ching-ying and Ricky Lau. It said, ‘In Your Footsteps’.
Captain Phillips (2013, USA / Paul Greengrass)
Being a biopic based upon the book ,’A Captain’s Duty : Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea’ written by Richard Phillips, a merchant mariner from Maersk Alabama who was taken hostage by Somali Pirates in 2009, himself, ‘Captain Phillips’ is truly a cinematic tour de force.
With his distinctive signature of handheld camera works, Paul Greengrass and Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography brought the tension of this film as high as it can be. And it was Tom Hanks who combined his leading charisma with psychologically-intense act into one of his greatest performance ever, alongside other cast lead by Barkhad Abdi, who were not an experienced actors. Their presentation made ‘Captain Phillips’ often feel like a documentary, yet also a thrilling action ride that put the audience right in the heart of a survival game.
And it was never shallow. In the limited sets, Billy Ray’s script significantly brought many issues into one thought-provoking storytelling. He pull the strings from both sides to show powerful human sides of every characters, thus made the right balance to ‘Captain Phillips’. It’s still a mainstream cinema, but wrapped with smart and visceral cinematic approaches. With breathtaking intensity and powerhouse performances all over it, ‘Captain Phillips’ is absolutely one of the finest movie this year.
Officially began, TIFF’s day-2 has various lineups from each of its sections. From the competition section, there are ‘Singing Women’, ‘The Double’, ‘The Empty Hours’, and ‘We Are The Best!’, World Focus screened ’27°C Loar Rocks’, ‘Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy’, ‘Takao Dancer’, and ‘Unbeatable’, Japanese Cinema Splash’ with ‘Walking with a Friend’ and Asian Future with ‘Rigor Mortis’. There are also some other titles for Public Screenings as well.
Another highlight for TIFF‘s day-2 is the presentation of the Japanese all time classic superhero ‘Ultraman‘ in HD Remastered 2.0 by Tsuburaya Productions in celebrating their 50th Anniversary. Appeared in this special screenings are CEO of Tsuburaya, Mr. Shinichi Oka, and the original ‘Ultraman‘ actors ; Susumu Kurobe (played Hayata), Hiroko Sakurai (played Fuji) and Satoshi Furuya, the first actor in Ultraman suit. It’s so great to see this classic episode of the original series now comes up on a high definition presentation in the big screen.
The Double (2013, UK / Richard Ayoade)
In the director’s seat, the multi talented English comedian-writer-actor Richard Ayoade might be visionary. His first feature, ‘Submarine’ quite a small coming of age dramedy surprised many critics and also brought him as a BAFTA nominee. But sometimes, loving references too much, also can kill. What happened with ‘The Double’ his second feature as a director, loosely based on Dostoyevsky’s works, Ayoade’s effort took them a bit too far. With a sci-fi mask beyond a noir-dystopian arthouse concept, ‘The Double’ felt too heavily influenced by Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’ and a few of those cinematic genres. From Orson Welles adaptation of Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ to David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’ or David Cronenberg’s ‘The Naked Lunch’. All the surrealistic imaginary beyond each subtexts.
Starred Jesse Eisenberg as Simon James, a paranoid – antisocial geek shadowed by his own doppelganger. Not only has an inverted name, this doppelganger also in many ways, his opposite. Slowly eclipsed and consumed his dreams, from the office superiors (Wallace Shawn & James Fox) to his co-worker, neighbor and romantic interest played by Mia Wasikowska, he had to go ‘Roger Dodger’, this time not to Campbell Scott in picking up girls, but himself instead.
Not only in creating an absurd – surrealistic and claustrophobic noir atmosphere, production designer David Crank and Erik Wilson’s cinematography worked impressively translating each symbols of Simon’s psychological nightmares. Jesse Eisenberg delivered a strong and convincing performance in his double role with opposite acts, along with other supporting cast and cameos from Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine, Chris O’Dowd, Cathy Moriarty and Sally Hawkins. Ayoade and Avi Korine’s script also did a good job brought the dark humour into their subtexts and metaphors.
The only problem, instead of being a tribute or any metas, using almost many reference that felt a bit too obvious, from those obscure genres to Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’, Ayoade killed his own originality beyond lot of expectations to his rather sophomore style of directing. It’s still worth watching, though, mostly for noir-dystopian lovers in its surreal universe. But then again, you have to deal to many, many different perceptions from the audience, and Ayoade might be jumped a little too far for his second feature.
The Empty Hours / Las Horas Muertas (2013, Mexico – France – Spain / Aarόn Fernández)
‘The Empty Hours’ a.k.a. ‘Las Horas Muertas’ is director/producer Aarόn Fernández ‘s second feature since the 2007’s ‘Partes Usadas’. A 17 year old Sebastian (Kristyan Ferrer), who left in charge for an hourly-rental motel by his uncle in the coastal area of Veracruz, develops a crush on the much older Miranda (Adriana Paz), a house agent who got neglected by his lover.
The most beautiful thing in ‘The Empty Hours’ is its simplicity. With a naturally memorable act from Ferrer and Paz, Fernández, who also wrote the script himself, has brought this coming of age themes beyond sexual arousal and exotic ambience, which is usually cliché, into something extraordinary. Not just the title that blended well with its deeply handling narrative and many fascinating symbols, the character development also felt so alive and believable. Just like their increasing chemistry, it will burn you slow at first, then leave you feeling deeply seduced at the end. It’s charming without ever trying too hard to be.
The Bling Ring (2013, USA – France – UK – Japan – Germany / Sofia Coppola)
There might be a reason why a Sofia Copolla wanted to do films like ‘The Bling Ring’. On the surface, it might seems too light compared with her previous ‘The Virgin Suicides’, ‘Lost In Translation’, ‘Somewhere’ or even ‘Marie Antoinette’. But wait. To make a movie inspired by a real case of a gang of L.A. teenagers who broke into celebrities’ home and stole a total of $3 million in cash, expensive jewelry and clothes, it will need more than just a director. It’s gotta be someone who really into celebrity cultures and their glamourize. Sofia Copolla obviously had it. And it’s true, too, beyond all of her movies, there’s always an exploration for fame and glamour. An exposé, even told with the opposite conclusion.
The victim was Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Miranda Kerr – Orlando Bloom and Megan Fox. The targets : Gucci, Prada, Louboutin, Marc Jacobs and any branded stuffs. The gang : Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, plus Israel Broussard, and newcomer Katie Chang. Ah, you know the rest.
Handling her part, who is not the lead but being the focus based on the ‘Vanity Fair’ article, Emma Watson was surprisingly good. But it’s Katie Chang and Israel Broussard who really stole the show.
‘The Bling Ring’ was actually full of Sofia Copolla’s signature, incl the gloomy ambience from the late cinematographer Harris Savides. Again, for those of you who think it’s just a longer version of Gossip TV, don’t. Being an exploration of narcissism, stardom and how far someone will go overlimits, it really blings.
Unbeatable (2013, Hong Kong / Dante Lam)
Known for his previous works in action-thrillers such as ‘The Viral Factor’, ‘Beast Stalker’, ‘The Stool Pigeon’ and ‘Fire Of Conscience’, director Dante Lam took his power to MMA ring and the human story about retired fighter who pushed to once again coming back to the ring. Shape like an adrenaline pumping combat action, no, it’s not just a cliché Hong Kong blockbusters. ‘Unbeatable’ which already won two awards at the Shanghai International Film Festival has more than just that. The dramatic side was engaging, the acting, mostly the clownish Nick Cheung, who’s now pursuing many,many, serious parts over his past carreer, was very convincing. Taiwanese heartthrob Eddie Pang was also good.
At many times, the movie still filled with the formulaic cliché, but overall, ‘Unbeatable’ didn’t turn as you think it is. A retired scumbag fighter, a young protegé in conflict with his own father, a traumatic single mother with little daughter, and redemption marks, the story really took a different turn in the final act. Punching harder with the dramatic approach, ‘Unbeatable’ is really enjoyable without ever losing its heartful core.