A half-reluctant 3 days holiday trip to Yamanashi Highlands had me reliving the forgotten horrors of an organized group tour. Sponsored by a certain Rotary Club, whose members have affliations with my former Japanese language school, I had fatally commited my name a month ago, thinking perhaps I could meet up with some of my old friends, most of whom didn’t turn up anyway. So after checking into the hotel the “program” started as we were ferried from place to place, touch and go travelling, stopping at one souvenir town after another till I was sure I won’t survive till day three.

And what’s with the incessant photo taking ?? Sure, I mean if the scenery’s justifiably beautiful and all, but the crazied lot were snapping everywhere they went, outside a cliched souvenir shop, front of the roadside, long as they could find a place to stand. This lady, seeing me grieving in pain outside the souvenir shop, came up and asked : ” Say, you don’t like taking pictures ? ”

Silence.

No more group tours for me.

Aug 23rd 2005
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I dunno which galaxy these guys came from, but on the planet where I live, and I’m no linguistic expert here either, I dare wager desert dwellers in Mongolia sure as hell don’t speak Cantonese ( Lei hai bingor ? ). Cracked me up. Still, John Moore’s remake of the film Flight of the Phoenix does happen on this planet no ? Confusing.

Anyway, a phonecall from my concerned mother regarding the earthquake ( happens intermittently here, most Tokyoites including myself have learnt to be fairly nonchalant about it, unless the roof actually comes down on our heads. ) had me assuring her that all was fine ( I keep reminding her half-jokingly that if the Big One were to visit, which by the way is overdue for Tokyo, myself, together with half of Tokyo’s population would have long since coalesced with the remaining rubble by the time news hit Singapore shores. ) Anyway, passing the phone over to my brother as we caught up a bit I realized to my absolute horror I haven’t spoken english for so long it sounded…wierd, foreign even. Like that part in Dances With Wolves, if you know what I mean. Couple that with my half_f**ked Japanese, too, and a nightmarish evening is complete, together with cantonese speaking Mongolian desert dwellers.

Aug 16th 2005
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An invitation from my good friends Takeshi+Kojima for a summer vacation in Takeshi’s hometown Gunma ( a largely rural prefecture north of Tokyo, very Riri ShuShu-ish. ) was an excellent way to kickstart the vacation, although temperatures there soared to a searing 37.1 degrees as we arrived, threatening to set my short crop on fire. This time round armed with a video camera documentation was high on the tasklist, and the highlights certainly had to include a drive up mountain Akagiyama ( home to the manga and film Initial D, although the drive up the winding roads gave me none of that “need for speed” gusto but a splitting headache instead. ), as well as the annual Takasaki summer festival, complete with fireworks and folkdances.

Aug 11th 2005
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Shimoyama Ten’s Shinobi is looking sharp with some impressive action sequences as seen from its trailer, but remembering the Kazuaki debacle that was Casshern, with equally promising visuals and a most attractive trailer, let’s not put in too much faith just as yet. Check out the official website here.

Anyway, attention on this post ought to have been dedicated to some writings on the excellent film Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders ( I can’t believe I’ve missed out on this film for so long even though it was shot 20 years ago ) that I just watched on film appreciation class in school yesterday, but I don’t have the time for a lengthy post right now. In any case, a viewing of the film will do infinitely more than reading off this blog, so please watch it.

Jul 22nd 2005
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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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