Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kitano to return to yakuza films?

A quick bit of Beat gossip from Cyzo:

Kitano 'Beat' Takeshi's 15th feature film looks set to go before the cameras in August.

"It hasn't been officially announced yet, but it's unmistakably going to be about modern yakuza society. Also, in line with the wishes of investors, the cast will not feature actors from Kitano's regular stable, but has Shiina Kippei as well as Kitano himself in the leading roles, with Miura Tomokazu and Kase Ryo in support." (according to a film industry insider)

We also understand that it will be shot on location in Kobe, the home ground of the Yamaguchi-gumi.

"It seems Kitano was a bit spooked when he first learned he'd be filming in Kobe, but then he heard from local film people that the gang had shifted their base to Nagoya, and also found out that only recently lawyers had held anti-mob demos around the gang's offices, so he was relieved to hear that their influence in Kobe was diminishing." (according to a TV producer close to Kitano)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Do you have the guts to handle Nishimura Yoshihiro?

Horror, especially the gore-based variety, is currently deemed a risky commercial prospect in a domestic theatrical market where the real money is in catering to women and families. The spread of multiplexes at the expense of smaller independent cinemas has strangled viewing choices to a degree where R-rated material generally has little chance of being screened outside of a decreasing number of theatres that cater almost exclusively to such tastes.

Now it seems shiny-domed splattermeister Nishimura Yoshihiro is having trouble finding a domestic distributor for his "Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl." The same thing happened with "The Machine Girl" and "Tokyo Gore Police", which were eventually released in a few small cinemas around the country, and mostly late shows at that. Apparently frustrated at the situation, he's decided to go on the offensive by issuing this challenge to film promoters and distributors:

We try to make cool stuff on a limited budget even if it kills us.

It's a challenge. Against everything.

That's why we want you to take up the challenge of distributing and promoting it.

Do you have to wait for someone to tell you to do it?

I know there are certain (childish) things holding you back, so attack them with the unique Japanese tradition of "nemawashi". If you can't do that, quit your damn company, nothing's gonna change.

How can you call yourself a promoter if you can't change the direction of film?

We put our lives on the line to make something cool, so we want you to do the same.

If you can't do that, you may as well die.

Or stick to saving up your Eco Points.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

"Goemon": the future of Japanese film?

You can always rely on producer Ichise Taka to come up with some unvarnished comment every so often about the state of the Japanese film industry, but this time he's come out swinging against the detractors of his collaboration with Kiriya Kazuaki, "Goemon":

Thanks to everyone who came to the see the film.

"Goemon" broke the 1 million attendance barrier [on May 25th]. I've received lots of emails praising it from friends and acquaintances who are usually tough to please, but I've been amazed at how obtuse the response has been from film critics and the media.

Adventurous works that divide opinion are exactly what's needed in Japanese film right now, so why don't they understand how much this challenge means for the future of cinematic entertainment in Japan? Criticism should be left up to those with the requisite insight and intellect, and should be a means of nurturing talent and potential. At a time when outlets for proper film criticism have virtually died out, every man and his dog is excreting infantile scribblings of their impressions.

I was dumbfounded by one article in a certain weekly magazine written for the purpose of bashing Kiriya. It conveniently collected the kind of comments from self-appointed film critics (nothing like actual film criticism) that are perfect for such a biased piece of writing, as well as picking up on snide remarks from film websites, denigrating the film. It's careless and truly irresponsible. I'm appalled to no end.

Does Ichise have a point about the quality of Japanese film criticism? Many foreign film scholars share the same pessimistic view, as seen in the continuing debate on the Kinejapan mailing list. There aren't many film sites and magazines out there worth subscribing to, especially when commercial imperatives and the threat of getting blacklisted by film companies and talent agencies require writers to tippy-toe around stars and directors in insipid reviews and interviews that read like advertising copy. At the other extreme, less-inhibited venues for film discussion such as blogs and bulletin boards, user-generated review sites like Yahoo! Eiga, and Eiga Hiho magazine's devastating "Hang 'Em High" column can be great sources of cathartically sadistic entertainment, but do they serve any other purpose?

As I mentioned in my 'review', Kiriya has become a target of derision from both professional and amateur movie pundits, and not just because of his films. He's the ex-husband of J-pop star Utada Hikaru; the son of a wealthy family that owns a chain of pachinko parlours (an industry often associated with Zainichi Koreans, which hardly endears him to bigoted netizens); and has a reputation as being 'passionate', which for some translates as airheaded and arrogant.

Personally I think there are enough problems with Kiriya's style of filmmaking to justify targeted criticism, especially concerning the gap between his ambitions and his accomplishments, not to mention the failure of veteran producers like Ichise to guide an inexperienced feature filmmaker away from superfluous indulgences and to set more realistic goals. But hey, what the hell do I know? I'm just some nobody who paid 1800 yen to sit through your grand experiment.