Two production stills from a short film production “Hanako to Taiichi” that just wrapped last Sunday. The story entails a girl set on suicide that receives some pretty stylized divine intervention. I was covering lighting on set and will also be doing a cut of the film soon. Shooting on location the view and backdrop from the rooftop was simply fantastic, and very…well, Japanese. If you’ve seen the film Tokyo Sora, you’ll know what I mean.

Jul 11th 2005

Required viewing was in store for Doi Nobuhiro’s Ima, Ainiyukimasu, the biggest Japanese film for 2005 so far, picking up 3.8 million viewers. Despite been unabashedly melodramatic and saccharine, cliched even, *ahem*, I liked it. Perhaps an understanding of the original japanese dialogue added to the enjoyment of the film too. Take it as a guilty cinematic pleasure one indulges in every once in a while. *Mr Mckee, BFI S&S folks frowns disapprovingly*

Check out the Japanese Premium dvd boxset here.

Jun 28th 2005
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In one of the ending sequences from Iwai Shunji’s Hana and Alice, Alice, one half of the film’s 2 main protaganists, turns up for a teenage magazine covergirl audition. Having been scouted by a talent agency early in the film but with several botched auditions so far ( including an excruciatingly hilarious Kitkat CM screentest ), she attends unenthusiastically, nonchalant at best. As her turn arrives she is quizzed on by the young hotshot director ( a cameo neatly performed by Osawa Takao, star of Sekainochushinde, aiwosakebu )about what she can do, but is quickly dismissed after replying “ballet”.

Unbeknownst to herself, she quips : ” Can I dance for real ? ” Taken aback by her spontaneity the director nods, and she arabesques away, the audition long forgotten as she lost herself in her own world of ballet. This burst of creative emancipation reminds me fondly of my own interview ( with a panel of 10 judges ) during my scholarship selection, for when quizzed on matters of filmmaking I had started out quivering but was soon taken over by a true sense of affection for the subject, and it can be truly wondrous to care passionately about something. Well, so I think.

Jun 27th 2005

Finally.

Jun 24th 2005
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Respect I believe, is the appropriate word of the day for Mr Nolan, wtih 3 features to his credit, the latest impressionable Batman Begins, Insomnia, and Memento. Did anyone mention he’s 35 ?

That said, perhaps there’s still time to rethink my silly filmmaking antics and seriously consider lifelihood as a Char Kueh Tiao hawker.

Anyway, go here for a decent review of Batman Begins : http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/2005_07/batman.php

Jun 19th 2005
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On many levels, Yomigaeri ( Resurrection ) takes a striking affinity to past films like Soderbergh’s remake of Takovsky’s Solaris, as well as Mimi Leder’s disaster movie Deep Impact. Looking beyond the overt sci-fi setting where all the 3 films share a similar premise, what strings the 3 films into tandem are their nuanced and skilfully constructed plot devices that very successfully coaxes and yanks at the viewers’ own personal latent pool of memory, setting off a very intimate emotional response built on our own experiences, the classic case of “what if I were to live through the same experience” if you may. Think hearing a familiar tune off a radio that sets off nostalgic memories, only in this case you get the entire visual-aura package, enabling one to ease into the character’s plight, full assimilation and empathy, the whole works.

In Deep Impact the impending doom of the earth is rendered realistically enough for us to imagine that very last precious moments we can share with our loved ones, just as the protaganists do in the film, and in both Solaris and Yomigaeri the sudden reappearance of our most cherished people scrutinizes our ability to let go in the event of a death and probe one’s mind like a sharp needle straight through the cerebrum, though that heady, pleasurable feeling associated with the viewing experience can hardly be defined as pain.

Jun 11th 2005
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A bbq party by the Arakawa River. Now these folks are really a lot crazier than they look. Photo courtesy of Mayo.

Jun 2nd 2005
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When I first read about the plot summary of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven at Cinfex.com many months ago while it was still pretty much in production, the immediate thought that crossed my mind was a biased one; how will the filmmakers portray the legendary military general Saladin ? My impressions were swayed in the direction that he would be misrepresented as a tyrant, merciless in his war against the crusaders, given the many instances in past Hollywood films where Muslims are often depicted as terrorists or religious extremists, ie the bad guys. Certainly I am no expert in the history of the Crusade but in watching this film a little background knowledge in the real history behind the story really does make the film significantly more enriching. ( perhaps this is the reason my classmates found the film largely boring, having never heard of Saladin nor the Crusade. )

For example, the famous scene where Saladin offers the king his physicians is a big nod to a real historical event, although it was offered to Richard the Lionheart ( the guy who announces himself the king of England at the end of the film ) rather than Baldwin ( the leper King ). Saladin was also known in history as a chivalric and merciful leader who generally left the Crusader Kingdom – Jerusalem – alone until the Crusaders repeatedly provoked him, attacking caravans of pilgrims, including one, yes, where his sister was travelling in. When they opened Saladin’s treasury after his death they found there was not enough money to pay for his funeral; he had given his money away to those in need.

May 14th 2005
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A mere five minutes viewing into Night Shyamalan’s The Village and I could have swore the dvd was worth buying almost on pure account of DOP Roger Deakin’s most handsome photography work. This must be Night’s most aesthetically pleasing film to date, plot notwithstanding. Despite setting out watching this film with full knowledge of its eventual plot development credit certainly must be given to Night’s attuned ability to craft scenes crammed with suspense and fear, when actually most of the time little was actually happening.

2 things that I found extremely displeasing – 1) *SPOILERS” Noah chancing upon one of those spook suits. “He found one of the suits under the floor board !” How very convenient for plot advancement ! This is as shoddy as anything, see Mr Mckee shaking his head in resignation. 2) Night’s cameos. Now we all understand Hitchcock did it too for most of his films, and it was fun to watch him, almost like a cinematic Where’s Wally Game, but here Night’s appearance is terribly irritating, given how obtrusive and deliberate his cameos are, even if its just a reflection.

Film production discussions aside, I simply don’t agree with the story’s Luddite point of view. To deny one’s own offspring the wonders and beautiful knowledge of science is an infinitely selfish act. Now this ranks just right below on the hate-meter for me for anyone who strives to promote fatalism, but you’ll have to watch Night’s previous film for that.

May 11th 2005
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Its hard to describe in words just how bizzare Ishii Katsuhito’s Cha no Aji ( The Taste of Tea ) is but its delightful combination of queer plot elements and even queerer characters makes for one very arresting viewing experience. I can’t quite remember the last time I was so zonked out after watching a film. Kanarazu mitekudasai.

Apr 20th 2005
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Film school enters the 2nd week as lesson proper starts, trial classes are expected for another week before we decide on the modules we want to take. I would have personally preferred more lesson time on the ARRI 16mm film camera but with so many students in the film module I doubt that can be helped. On a much more exciting note I am without a doubt the most linguistically challenged student on campus, but gratifyingly enough that also means there’s no other place to go but up.

Dokorode today on film appreciation class our lecturer shares with us his conversation with a friend who was working as film crew for director Iwai Shunji. *quote* “(Iwai) Madness !!! 3 days on set without sleep ! We start eating our meals without the foggiest idea if its breakfast, lunch or dinner. ”

Apr 18th 2005
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Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Kohi Jikou ( Cafe Lumiere ) is an extremely quiet and halcyon film ( in fact bordering on extremes, especially to those whose tastes are not attuned to the arthouse ) that however speaks volumes in emotional resonance beneath it seemingly mundane scenes and locked camera shots. Tsai Ming Liang’s What Time Is It There comes to mind. Lee Ping Bing’s photography is remarkably unostentatious and austere, much more akin to his work in Spring Time in a Small Town than In The Mood For Love.

On a more personal level many of the scenes take on a very intimate and immediate feel, the locations been places I am familiar with while I’m here in Japan like Shinjuku train station ( the chime for a leaving train is especially nostalgic ), Yurakucho, and the short trams to Waseda, passing through Sangenjaya where my friend Berni used to live.

Apr 11th 2005
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