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Friday, Feb. 2, 2007

JAPAN FOUNDATION FILM SERIES

Early works by Kitano, Kurosawa trace current J-film boom


Last year witnessed a boom in the Japanese film industry, with nearly 30 local films taking more than 1 billion yen at the box office. The trend doesn't look likely to end soon, either, with two much talked about films -- "Soredemo Boku wa Yattenai," directed by Masayuki Suo (who drew international attention with the 1996 hit "Shall We Dance?") and Akihiko Shiota's "Dororo" (see review on today's film page) currently showing at cinemas.

Takeshi Kitano in Sono Otoko, Kyobo ni Tsuki
A young Takeshi Kitano in "Sono Otoko, Kyobo ni Tsuki." "SONO OTOKO, KYOBO NI TSUKI" (c) 1989 SHOCHIKU CO. LTD

The Japan Foundation Film Series will present the early works of active Japanese directors -- including Suo and Shiota -- as well as four other prominent contemporary Japanese directors, Takeshi Kitano, Yoichi Sai, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Sabu, from Feb. 2-4 in Akasaka, Tokyo. All films will be screened with English subtitles.

Titled "Evolving Japanese Cinema," the three-day festival opens with Kitano's debut feature "Sono Otoko, Kyobo ni Tsuki (Violent Cop)" (Feb. 2, 6:30 p.m.), first released in 1989.

Kitano was already known as a successful television comedian under the guise Beat Takeshi before he made a name for himself in cinema with "Violent Cop," in which he also stars. The movie established the director's now famous signature style of hard-boiled, unsentimental violence as it follows a sociopathic detective investigating the murder of a drug dealer. Kitano went on to secure his international status as a director when his most acclaimed film, "Hana-bi," won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1997.

Suo's early comedy flick "Fancy Dance" (1989) will be screened on Feb. 3 (4 p.m.). Based on a popular manga, the film is handled with a suitably light touch and follows the life of a former punk rocker who goes through a year's training at a remote temple to become a Buddhist priest.

"Charisma" (2000) closes the festival on Feb. 4 (5:30 p.m.). The film is directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who achieved international acclaim with his earlier horror hit "Cure." "Charisma" is a modern fable about a detective, Yabuike, who gets involved in a conflict over a tree called Charisma that may -- or may not -- be toxic.

All films will be screened at OAG Hall, 7-5-56 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, a 5-minute walk from Exit A4, Aoyama-Itchome Station on the Ginza and Hanzomon lines. Tickets are 600 yen per screening. For the schedule, visit www.jpf.go.jp/



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