Tokyo International Film Festival: Some hidden gems, but short on quality overall
Tetsuichiro Tsuta's The Tale of Iya was the highlight of the festival
Monday 28 October 2013
Autumn is the season of the supersized film festival. Toronto, London and Busan don't so much programme films as suck them in like a black hole. Who needs to care about curating when you can show 300 films?
So it's nice to land at the Tokyo International Film Festival, where the number of films selected seems inversely proportional to the size of the population. The five main sections of the program house only 77 films. Sadly, it doesn't follow that the lack of quantity ensures a concentration on quality.
The competition selection is made up of 17 films, but it's hard to take the line-up seriously when Drinking Buddies – a likeable but lightweight American comedy – is in the running. As with the London festival's competition, it's made up of several films that have already aired elsewhere. The UK entrant, Richard Ayoade's The Double, based on Dostoevsky's classic novel, has already shown at Toronto and London. That being said, the Japanese poster for the film is marvellous, as was the official festival poster - a heart manipulated to look like a movie camera.
The winning film was Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best, a charming tale about a group of schoolgirls who start a punk band in Sweden in the early 1980s. But like a postman, it's done the rounds.
The joy of the Tokyo festival came in searching out local films from unheralded directors. There were two Japanese films in competition, both character studies in which protagonists visit seaside towns and touch upon the seedier side of life. Yet that is where the similarities ended.
One, Au revoir l’ete, stars a likeable protagonist, Sakuko (Fumi Nikaido), an 18-year-old girl who spends the summer studying for her university in a small seaside town and discovers romance, and a group of locals who wouldn't look out of place in Twin Peaks. My favourite was Ukichi (Kanji Furutachi), who runs an unofficial "love hotel". His straightforward questioning nature seems to always end with his subject staring some moral failing straight in the eye. Also intriguing is Takashi (Taiga), a refugee from Fukushima. Director Koji Fukada delights in equating the nuclear meltdown with the meltdown of the nuclear family. The title is French, and the only reason for it seems to be because the film has the sensibility of Eric Rohmer.
The other Japanese competition film, Disregarded People, has a protagonist who commits two rapes and gets into complicated relationships with both women - a young lady with a birthmark across her face whom he marries, and her aunt with whom he has a ten-year affair. Like some of the Japanese deserts on offer in local restaurants, this can best be described as not for Western palates, well, not since the 1970s New Hollywood Cinema anyway. Director Hideo Sakaki may be one of Japan's best-known actors (he starred in The Grudge), but he's unlikely to add to his fan club with this adaptation of the manga comic by Inochi (aka George) Akiyama. The film starts bleak and just gets bleaker.
Strangely, the film that would have lit up the competition - the stunning Japanese discovery of the festival, Tetsuichiro Tsuta's The Tale of Iya - was tucked away in the Asian Future section. The wordless opening scene in which a man finds a baby in the snow by a freezing lake in the mountains of Tokushima is mesmerising. When the action jumps to the present day, the baby has grown into caring woman Haruna (Rina Takeda), who is now looking after the elderly gentleman (Min Tanaka) who discovered her. It maintains a glacial high standard throughout the near three-hour runtime.
The story looks at the changing face of modern Japan. The town can no longer rely on agriculture to sustain the community and as a result many of the local population have left for the big city. They've been replaced by a group of construction workers building a tunnel through Iya and a group of foreigners protesting the defacing of the Japanese countryside. Then there is an amazing turn of events that audiences should discover for themselves. Mark 29-year-old director Tetsuichiro Tsuta on your movie dance card.
Video: Interviews with cast of Last Vegas
Broadcaster unveils Christmas scheduleTV
Review: Posh journalists just can't get enough of each otherTV
Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Halle Berry takes ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry to court for allegedly trying to make daughter look less African-American
- 4 Isis propaganda image showing 'abuse of Muslim woman by soldiers' is actually taken from Hungarian porn film
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Black Mirror Christmas special: Jon Hamm episode will see people 'blocked' in real life
True Detective series 2: Rachel McAdams cast in female lead as 'no-nonsense' detective
Zoella: YouTube sensation Zoe Sugg's debut novel expected to become overnight bestseller
Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
Posh People: Inside Tatler, BBC2 - TV review: Fundamentally not just about posh people
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services