“The Tokyo International Film Festival, running through Oct. 31, is no longer Asia’s biggest or most important festival—that honor is now claimed by the recently held rival Busan film festival,” grants Mark Schilling in the Japan Times. “But its 27th edition—the first to reflect the full influence of TIFF’s current director-general, Yasushi Shiina—has both a new hub in the Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi theater complex and a new focus on a made-in-Japan genre: anime.”
Among the highlights are a tribute to Hideaki Anno, creator of the Evangelion series; Garm Wars: The Last Druid by Mamoru Oshii, the creator of the Ghost in the Shell franchise who’s currently filming new Patlabor feature; Tetsuro Araki’s Attack on Titan: The First Part; Shinji Aramaki’s prequel Appleseed Alpha; new shorts by Shigeru Miyamoto featuring Pikmin, “cute creatures that are a hybrid of plant and animal.”
The festival opened on Thursday night with another animated film, albeit not a Japanese one: Don Hall and Chris Williams’s Big Hero 6. “If science were ever able to blend Monsieur Hulot with an orthopaedic mattress, the result would be something like Baymax,” suggests the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin, describing the “10ft-tall inflatable robot who’s impeccably well-mannered at all times, even though he and the world at large are not quite mutually compatible. Squeezing through human-sized spaces involves much careful shuffling and stooping, and sometimes a partial deflation. In one scene, while edging through his 14-year-old owner’s bedroom, his bottom sweeps the bookshelf clean. Surprisingly, it’s this kind of physical comedy—unfussily staged, meticulously timed, and, crucially, uproariously funny—that underpins probably the most visually extravagant animation Disney has produced to date.”
“Invited to speak in Tokyo as part of the ‘Cool Japan’ cultural promotion drive, animator John Lasseter delivered a heart-felt and deeply personal tribute to Japan, Japanese film culture, and fellow animation icon Hayao Miyazaki,” reports Patrick Frater for Variety. “‘Thank you, Japan for making me who I am,’ he said by way of conclusion in front of a packed theatre at the Tokyo International Film Festival on Friday.” More from Patrick Brzeski in the Hollywood Reporter.
Back to Mark Schilling: “Despite TIFF’s anime focus this year, its lineup of live-action Japanese films is as wide ranging as ever,” and he picks out four “Japanese directors to watch.” Also in the Japan Times, Kaori Shoji highlights a few non-Japanese titles: Oscar Ruiz Navia’s Los Hongos, Elchin Musaoglu’s Nabat, Edmund Yeo’s River of Exploding Durians, Alexander Kott’s Test and Khavn De La Cruz’s Ruined Heart! Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore.
Updates, 10/25: “Despite its catchy title, River of Exploding Durians (Liu lian wang fan) doesn’t pack much of a wallop in its exploration of the different types of malaise affecting young Malaysian students in and out of political activism,” finds the Hollywood Reporter‘s Deborah Young. “Though confronting these issues at all is quite courageous in censor-happy Malaysia, writer-director Edmund Yeo is still reaching for the cinematic vocabulary to express his ideas.” More from Jessica Kiang (Playlist, B).
Also, Mamoru Oshii’s Garm Wars: The Last Druid “feels like an excerpt from a much longer and more complex epic with a lot of story missing. The director’s usual humanistic anti-war message is telegraphed boldly, but there is often a sense that this is more an exploding video game more than a narrative film.”
Updates, 10/26: “The mainstream Japanese film industry came in for a surprising volume of criticism Saturday at a Tokyo event intended to celebrate the iconic comedian, actor and director Takeshi Kitano.” Patrick Frater reports for Variety.
“Going from strength to strength, director Yoshida Daihachi (The Kirishima Thing) returns to the themes of conformity and rebellion in Japanese society in Pale Moon (Kami no Tsuki), the story of an obedient housewife who becomes an embezzler to live it up with a young lover,” writes Deborah Young.
Also: “At first glance a controversial choice for Tokyo competition, Ruined Heart: Another Lovestory Between a Criminal & a Whore is a tone poem that has its own raison d’etre. Prolific Filipino digital pioneer Khavn (aka Khavn de la Cruz), who has carved out a youthful fan base at many Euro festivals, won’t disappoint his followers with this wordless romantic crime tale that surges forward on waves of world music. The story is set in a shabby but colorful rabbit warren of backstreets amid Manila’s violent, live-for-the-instant underworld, where a handful of characters love and murder each other.”
Updates, 10/27: Hideaki Anno “says the Japanese animation industry is heading for turbulence.” Mark Schilling reports for Variety.
“As gripping as a thriller, as squirm-inducing as a horror, the debut feature from Bulgarian co-directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov may ostensibly be a work of social realist fiction, but its’s not for the faint of heart, and not for those whose arthouse sensibilities tend toward the delicate or the subtle,” writes Jessica Kiang at the Playlist. “Depending on your tolerance for the good-people-in-ever-worsening-situations school of cinema, The Lesson is either a provocative statement about how our ideals and self-identities can begin to crumble and fray in the face of extraordinary pressure or an all-out ordeal, but either way there’s no denying it makes an impact, and that Grozeva and Valchanov thoroughly deserved their San Sebastian win for Best New Directors.”
Update, 11/2: And the awards have been announced:
- Tokyo Grand Prix and the Award for Best Director: Josh and Benny Safdie for Heaven Knows What.
- Special Jury Prize: Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s The Lesson.
- Award for Best Actress: Rie Miyazawa, Pale Moon.
- Award for Best Actor: Robert Więckiewicz, The Mighty Angel.
- Award for Best Artistic Contribution: Alexander Kott’s Test.
- Audience Award: Pale Moon.
- WOWOW Viewer’s Choice Award: Test.
- Best Asian Future Film Award: Amirhossein Asgari’s Borderless.
- The Spirit of Asia Award, presented by the Japan Foundation Asia Center: Sotho Kulikar for The Last Reel.
- Japanese Film Splash, Best Picture Award: Masaharu Take’s 100 Yen Love.
- Japanese Film Splash, Special Mention: Shuichi Okita’s Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday.
- SAMURAI Award: Takeshi Kitano and Tim Burton.
Update, 11/12: Jana Monji sends a dispatch into RogerEbert.com.