Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Miike

Alright Miike Takashi fanboys and fangirls, time to gird your loins once again as news of the director's latest project bursts forth.

Get this for a combination: Miike is to direct an adaptation of "Flower and Snake" author and S&M specialist Dan Oniroku's novella "Bishonen", which can be literally translated as "pretty young man". Set during the late 40s-early 50s in Kansai, the western region of Honshu that includes Osaka, Wakayama and Kyoto, it's a typically racy story of forbidden love between two high school boys.

The producers are currently holding an open audition for the lead role of Kikuo and no casting announcements have yet been made, but it's very easy to picture Matsuda Ryuhei and Ando Masanobu in the lead roles with their turns as homosexual lovers in Miike's challenging "Big Bang Love, Juvenile A" fresh in the memory. As the film is still in pre-production it'll be a while yet before a release date is confirmed, but knowing the speed that Miike works we can probably expect to see this first at one of next year's major international film festivals. Are you listening, programmers?

By the way, there is a yaoi manga adaptation available, but the novella itself seems to be currently out of print.

The story goes a little something like this:

As "I" was practising with my jazz band in a light music faculty room,
a young man entered.

With one glance, "I" was entranced by this incredibly beautiful young man.

His name was Kazama Kikuo.
He was the heir to the Wakamatsu style of traditional Japanese dance.

"I" had a girlfriend named Kumiko, and had never been interested in men before. However, when I heard Kikuo play "Spring Sea" on the koto at the school festival, I was moved as a fellow musician even though our genres were different, and even went as far as writing a letter to him.

Thinking back now, I can see that it was probably a love letter.

That was the beginning of "my" relationship with Kikuo.
We watched Kabuki and drank tea together.
From the outside, it must have looked like two boys dating.

Then one day when Kikuo came to stay the night,
he and "I" consummated our bond quite naturally.

"I" was torn between my feelings and my morals.
But no matter how much "I" agonized, "I" still loved Kikuo,
and Kikuo loved "me".

Unlike Kumiko, Kikuo was extremely feminine.
For that reason, it took time before "my" room was filled with Kikuo's love.

Before long the relationship between Kikuo and "I" became the talk of the school.
Then Kumiko began to catch on, and she became incensed with jealousy.

When the rumors first began to spread,
"I" contemplated breaking up with Kikuo over a minor argument,
and consulted school thug Mikio.

However, this would lead to the binding and humiliation of Kikuo by Mikio, his girlfriend Mariko, and Kumiko, before "my" very eyes,
as I experienced hellish torment and ecstasy. (sources: Maeda Shigeji's blog, Raku Film)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Suzuki Seijun: still killing

83-year-old Suzuki Seijun has pulmonary emphysema that requires him to be permanently attached to a respirator, but it didn't stop him from making an appearance last Saturday at a retrospective in Shibuya celebrating the 50th anniversary of his directorial debut.

Mari Annu (58), the striking Indian-Japanese actress who played heroine Misako in 1967's "Branded To Kill" (Koroshi no Rakuin), was also in attendance on the first day of the "Suzuki Seijun 48-pon Shobu" (Suzuki Seijun 48 Film Challenge) at the great little meiga-za (revival movie theatre) Cinema Vera.

Mari had been plucked from Nikkatsu's music halls for the role by Suzuki himself. "Back then I had felt a strong urge to commit suicide, but when I [read the script] I was captivated by Misako. I loved her name, but it was her first line "My dream is to die" that had a profound impact on me. It was like lightning."

"Suzuki Seijun 48-pon Shobu", currently running as a sidebar of this year's Tokyo International Film Festival, features 48 of the maverick filmmaker's works (unfortunately, without subtitles) from his 1956 debut "Minato no Kanpai: Shori o Wa ga Te ni" (Harbour Toast: Victory Is In Our Grasp) to 2001's "Pistol Opera", and is the first to screen his entire body of work for Nikkatsu. Suzuki sheepishly admitted that "Some of these films are so embarrassing, I wish they wouldn't screen them."

The incorrigibile Suzuki was in fine form as usual, so here's some other choice quotes:

On the use of "Maebari", strips of adhesive material for covering an actor's genitals that came into regular usage on movie sets in the 1960s: "I said it was the director's job to put them on the actresses, but unfortunately they turned me down. I hear it hurt to take those things off." Mari added: "It did. It was a real let-down when Shishido Jo wore one on set. I'd been hoping to see him in the buff."

On the abundance of female protagonists in his recent films: "That's because it's mostly men who go to see them. I don't know about guys going together though! (laughs) Action films are for women. They like the bloodthirsty stuff."

And on cast relations: "A lot of directors who were born in the Meiji period got it on with their actresses. It wasn't the done thing for guys like me who were born in the Taisho period. If only I'd been born 10 years earlier..." (sources: Sanspo, Nikkan Sports, Cinematopics)