Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hopes for Fukasaku + Oshii collaboration still burning faintly

Back in 2005, you might have read about a major collaboration between Fukasaku Kenta and Oshii Mamoru titled "Elle is Burning" that was seeking investment at Tokyo Project Gathering, a sidebar of the Tokyo International Film Festival. Initially inspired by a series of riots by poor day laborers in Osaka's Nishinari ward that stretches all the way back to 1961, the story took on a more futuristic sheen with Oshii's involvement and piqued the interest of more than a few film fans in Japan and abroad. Actually, at the time I was fortuitously given the job of translating the synopsis and script, but possibly because of that (hey, you never know), little has been heard of it since.

Fukasaku subsequently hasn't had much trouble finding gainful employment, turning out several niche genre works that have been lukewarmly received at best; most notably his terrorism-themed revival of the Sukeban Deka series, casting Hello Project idols Matsuura Aya and Ishikawa Rika alongside Kubozuka Shunsuke and Takeuchi Riki, was a resounding flop. His most recent effort is "Maid for You", the seventh instalment in the softcore "A Perfect Education" series, which opened in limited release on January 30th and boasted sporadic 3D bonking (Jason Gray has more on the film here). But in a Cyzo interview to promote the film, Fukasaku provided a little background on why the eagerly awaited "Elle" project fizzled out:
"The project wasn't moving forward much, so I asked Oshii Mamoru to write a script and changed its direction so it would become an entry in his 'Kerberos Saga'. Refugees would flood into Japan from mainland China, and an island internment facility would be created in Tokyo Bay... it was an ambitious concept. But there were a number of problems such as the large budget and the necessity of gaining approval from the Chinese government, so it got shelved. Later I traveled to China to research another project, and that's where I met the screenwriter for ["A Perfect Education: Maid for You"], Zushi Kensuke. I told him that I had a hangup about working with actresses, perhaps because my mother [Nakahara Sanae] was one, and that I didn't like working with actresses in sexy situations, and he let me know that there was another entry in the 'A Perfect Education' series in the works. I'd followed the series for a long time, so I ended up saying 'Let me make it'."
Although I can't publish my synopsis or script translation here, I can say that making the film would require a massive outlay on production design including sizeable set construction and CG work, not to mention legions of extras, rendering it very difficult to execute effectively in the current conservative film industry climate. Also taking into account its grimly dystopian world view and plot detailing totalitarian oppression and violent rebellion (shades of "Children of Men"), it's unlikely that it would find much of an audience domestically outside of diehard Oshii fans. Nevertheless, it's a gripping story culminating in an incendiary climax that could swiftly relegate the likes of "Sky Crawlers" and "Assault Girls" to the bargain bin of Oshii's filmography.

Whether Fukasaku is the right filmmaker to realize the project is another matter, but in any case he hasn't given up on it yet.
"While I took a risk making 'A Perfect Education', as did Yanagi and Ayano who acted their hearts out in the lead roles, I think we've made it possible for ourselves to take the next step forward. I have about seven or eight projects I'm working on, and I haven't given up on 'Elle is Burning' yet either."

"Coraline" director Henry Selick's favorite Kurosawa film


"As for my influences, of course there's Harryhausen, Fellini, Kurosawa Akira... 'Ran' is especially great. I like the character that Harada Mieko plays with the shaven eyebrows. It's an incredibly powerful image."
From an interview in the April 2010 issue of Eiga Hiho magazine.