For all its high tech gadgetry and advanced technology, Japan is in primeval times when it comes to international film releases dates. Only now are Master and Commander, Peter Pan getting ready to kick off screening here in Tokyo. New films are going to have to take a backseat here while I’m in Japan, the pricey tickets not helping either.

If there’s any consolation, the dvd stores here are really good; they stock titles you can never find in Singapore, and its probably a good time to catch up on good films that I have missed or simply haven’t been exposed to yet, and that’s alot. Going to be adding a new list on the side menu here under new dvds watched, so far, Soderbergh’s Limey and a totally unknown but fantastically shot film called Dinner Rush.

Apr 9th 2004
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Yesterday night my landlord and his gf invited me to a short film screening at this place called Pink Cow in Shibuya. It was raining when we stepped out of the house, the weather so cold I was breathing vapour, and they were laughing at me for making such a spectacle of it. Dinner was at this really cool sushi place not far from Pink Cow, you have to down 10 plates in 20 minutes to pay a lower price for each plate. Doesn’t sound like much, but 8 out of 10 plates were raw, and I don’t quite stomach that. The chefs make the sushi from iceboxes of fresh seafood just next to you, refilling empty slots in the belt. It was quite authentic sushi…I mean…it is authentic. :]

Apr 5th 2004
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Greetings everyone. :] Its already my fourth day in Meguro, Japan and have finally gotten online. A swell place to be for starters, exciting and interesting sights at every corner, but I’ve also quickly discovered the exorbitant price of life in Tokyo. Just yesterday I was in a cafe in Shinjuku with my friends and forked out 760 yen ( more than S$10 ) for an ice Teh Tarik of sorts. Thankfully, my senior Martin and landlord Mr Takeshi have been most hospitable, offering valuable help whenever they can.

Also a very big thanks to those who sacrificed their sleep on my departure day to see me off, and many apologies that I had to leave in such a flurry. Big thanks folks. :]

Anyhoo, there’s a river about 5 minutes from my place where the cherry blossoms are blooming, beautiful sight. Folks are just lined up along the river pavement carousing and partying, i’ve even spotted a group Shabu-shabu-ing away. These blokes sure know how to enjoy life . Picture on the right is my apartment in Shimomeguro. Click on the image for a bigger version.

Apr 4th 2004

Ok, nothing too poetic and lengthy before I leave, but i’m sure to miss the Jalan Kayu prata and mutton soup very very much, as with all my friends back here. But when you gotta go you gotta go…so goodbye Singapore, hello Japan.

See you folks in Tokyo. :]

Mar 31st 2004
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Bernado Bertolucci’s The Dreamers = People drinking, smoking crack and having sex. Those were the highlights, in any case. Going to wait till I have more brain juice before attempting to write more about the film. For sure though, its an immersive piece, with richly and opulently textured sets, and what I can say, more than your fair share of opulent, nude female figures.

Mar 27th 2004
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Some pictures of my rented place in Meguro, Toyko, where I’ll be staying. Big thanks to Mr Takeshi, my landlord of sorts. I like the big windows just next to bed.

Also, the Singapore International Filmfest website is up, is it just me or there are so few films this year ?

Mar 4th 2004
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With a plot device so slow its almost guaranteed to elicit loud bahs or snores from the average moviegoer, Peter Webber’s Girl With A Pearl Earring will no doubt, however, be highly appreciated by fine arts students or anyone who is fairly familiar with Vermeer’s artwork. While it is a common affair in films to have allusions to famous art pieces, ( DaVinci’s Last Supper, Hopper’s Night Hawks and David’s Death of Marat, just to name a few ) GWAPE ups the ante with staging of Vermeer’s works so pervasively it runs from the first scene of the film until the last, an unabashly esoteric piece of film art. Certainly, a good knowledge of the artist’s work is not a prerequisite in appreciating the beauty of this film, but having one puts you on quite a different dimension. DOP Eduardo Serra ( whose much earlier work The King’s Trial was also based on Vermeer’s paintings ), reconstructs each shot with amazing detail and clarity, especially the artist’s working studio.

A painful reminder of my arts theory classes in Victoria school, where more often than not, I opted for an afternoon at the games arcade rather than listening to my lecturer rant on about aloof artists and their movements Romanticism, Neo-classicism, what have you.

Feb 28th 2004
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Giving a short speech at the Takashimaya NAC scholarship inception award. That’s the last time you’ll catch me in a suit for quite a while.

For the full press release, click here.

Feb 25th 2004
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Had dinner with 3 of my senpais ( seniors ), folks who have studied in Japan on the same scholarship program. Some quick excerpts :

Cool : I have been checking out this film school in Toyko called Toho Gakuen College, and coincidentally one of my senbei had graduated from there. She told me they had industry/internship links with NHK and Toei, and many students who graduated from there have gone on to become film directors and DPs. Nice.

Not so Cool : Also from the same senbei, movie tickets in Japan cost 1500 yen, STUDENT RATE, ( which comes to about 24 sing dollars ). Now that is just so great, yeah.

Feb 24th 2004
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Listening now to the OST of exalted Korean film Memories of Murder ( see film review in earlier post below ), scored by Japanese musician Taro Ishiwaro ( he also wrote the music for The Inanimate World ), hauntingly mezmerising. I exhort all to watch this fantastic and disturbing film.

Feb 21st 2004
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Thailand director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s Last Life in the Universe, an austere and beautifully shot film ( no small thanks to HKSC Christopher Doyle’s brilliant photography ) is at its very heart, the simple story of two hopeless souls meeting in tragic serendipity and learning to have hope in their lives again, albeit clumsily. Maximizing the creative cinematographic prowess of Doyle, as well as a refined, minimalistic script, ( both protaganists, especially Kenji, played with relish by Tadanobu Asano , barely speak more than a few lines in every conversation ), Pen-Ek blends the nuanced performances from the 2 actors with the richly designed and detailed production incidentals ( sets, notably Noi’s ramshackle home, in all its ransacked glory, music, supporting roles ) with great effect. The result is a highly accomplished film low on flashy visual spectacles ( cept perhaps for the moments when Kenji’s Yakuza past is revealed, with much applaud ), high on emotional impact, and very good filmmaking.

On an interesting sidenote, as the credits rolled several loud “huhs” could be heard, a mixture of disdain and bewilderment. Last life, lacking a definite and clearcut ending ( ie Kenji and Noi driving their VW into the sunset ), greatly disturbs the hollywooders.

Sometimes, the journey is indeed the destination.

Feb 8th 2004
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In an early scene from Sofia Coppola’s off-beat romantic comedy Lost in Translation, Charlotte ( Scarlett Johansson ) posts herself at her high-rise hotel window, peering over Tokyo’s featureless urban landscape like an angel keeping watch, forever invisible and at once detached from her distant subjects. Later on in the show, she visits a shrine in the old imperial capital of Kyoto and witnesses a traditional Japanese wedding. Sheltering beneath a huge red parasol and garbed in picturesque costume, the two newlyweds link hands. Charlotte looks on quietly. In both instances, no words or maudlin narration were needed to convey the poignant sense of quiet, luscious melancoly so intended, yet the intensity of the final mood expressed was multiplied manifold without. It is exactly with such a cinematic framework of toned down, unobtrusive visual style and quiet narrative treatment that the movie Lost in Translation is built on, something so rarely seen in Hollywood productions and which wholeheartedly won me over.

In light of my approaching journey ( I am set for a 3 year film study course in Tokyo come March, courtesy of the National Arts Council ), watching this film is like a harbinger of solitude, heralding my days of impending loneliness and loss.

Surely this is a film I will not easily forget in my days to come.

*For a more poetic and expressive review of the film, check out the comments box.

Feb 2nd 2004
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