Wong Kar-wai's enthralling digital restoration of his 1994 film Ashes of Time revitalizes the cinematic fragments of love, desire, rejection and exile.
To his fans, Yasujiro Ozu is not a mere artist, but a friend with whom you've shared a few Sapparos and who makes you feel you've known Japanese all your life. Thus these notes are written out of a familiarity and kinship, to a good friend in a neighboring city...
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An acclaimed Japanese director passes away, Beverly Hills Ninja leaps to Korea, and a genie grants Bollywood two Aladins. All this and more in the latest edition of News from Abroad.
Director Jun Ichikawa dies at 59
The acclaimed filmmaker best known for his 2004 drama Tony Takitani died of a brain hemorrhage on September 19th. Just the night before, the 59 year-old Jun Ichikawa was editing his final film buy a suit. Ichikawa began in TV commercials before directing his first feature Bu Su in 1987. He followed with a number of quiet, Ozu-like dramas that wowed audiences domestically (his 1991 Tsugumi and 1994 Dying at a Hospital won local honors) and abroad (the 1995 Tokyo Siblings won the FIPRESCI press at Berlin and the 1997 Tokyo Lullaby won best director in Montreal). But it was the 2004 Tony Takitani, based on a Haruki Murakami story, that brought Ichikawa greater attention amongst international critics, taking a number of awards at Locarno, and placing on a number of international critics' polls. According to a festival announcement, Ichikawa's posthumous work buy a suit will play the Tokyo International Film Festival in October. --Brian Hu
Booker Prize finalists announced
Making the top five this year are Aravind Adiga's White Tiger and Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies. White Tiger is Adiga's debut fiction novel. The novel follows Balram's transformation from a young boy in rural India to a chauffeur who murders his employer. It's told as a series of letters to the premier of China, as Balram wants to share his experiences with the man of power, to showcase the dark side of India's entrepreneurial underbelly. Having worked as a financial journalist for many years before delving into fiction, Adiga currently writes for Time magazine as their Asia correspondent. Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies takes place during the Opium Wars on a ship that's traveling through Indian Ocean to the Mauritius Islands. It is the first of a planned trilogy of novels from Ghosh. According to the Hindustan Times, the British gamblers are already placing bets on the Booker Prize; they have Ghosh up ahead, but many are hoping Adiga will take it as the underdog. We shall all find out the results when the Booker Prize winner is announced on October 14th. --Ada Tseng
Beverly Hills Ninja returns
Here's a sequel that nobody asked for: Beverly Hills Ninja 2. The sequel to the 1997 hit Chris Farley action comedy will have the distinction of being the first mainstream Hollywood film to be shot in Korea. The plot involves a boy who wants to become a ninja (who doesn't?), but gets entangled in a crime (of course), and has to search for his real parents (probably ninjas). Co-writer and co-producer of the first film, Mitch Klebanoff, wrote the script and will direct the film. He'll be collaborating with former director Kim Hyun-sung (Mr. Butterfly), since roughly 70% of the picture will be shot in Korea. The movie features David Hasselhoff (Looking for Freedom), Lucas Grabeel (High School Musical), and Taiwanese supermodel-actress Lin Chiling (Red Cliff). Seeing as how the original movie was only funny because of Chris Farley's endearingly oafish performance, looks like the producers are missing the point here. Just like that wonderful Jamie Kennedy sequel to The Mask. Yikes. The movie is slated for an early summer release in the US and Korea next year. --William Hong
Sony calls "mine!"
Sony has bought the distribution rights to Sky Crawlers, a feature-length anime directed by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), and will release the film in Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Canada, and the United States. Voice actors include Rinko Kikuchi (from Babel) and Chiaki Koriyama (Kill Bill Vol. 1, Battle Royale). The screenplay, written by Chihiro Ito, is based on the bestselling Japanese novel by Mori Hiroshi and revolves around un-aging, adolescent fighter pilots who fight brutal wars for competing corporations -- but in the guise of innocent sports entertainment. The film premiered in Japan in August and won the Future Festival Digital Award at the Venice Film Festival, which honors films made with digital technology. It will also be showing at Spain's Sitges International Film Festival (October 2 - 12), considered by critics to be one of the most important film festivals to showcase science fiction. --Ian Shaikh
Aladin 2 approved before Aladin release
This time it's not Disney that's making the sequel. Leading film production studio of India, Eros Pictures, announced the production of Aladin 2 slated to release in 2009. The greenlight comes even before the global release of the first Aladin directed by Sujoy Ghosh and starring Bollywood regulars Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Riteish Deshmukh, and Jackie Fernandes. Kishore Lulla, Chairman & Managing Director of Eros International said Eros is confident in the performance of Aladin at the box office and aims at creating wider global appeal with more complex visual arts in its upcoming sequel. The original cast is expected to return in the second Aladin. Director Ghosh commented, "Aladin 2 will be a bigger challenge and much more fun. I don't understand cross over cinema but the aim is to make a full on Hindi film, songs, dances et al, for a global audience". --LiAnn Ishizuka
Park Chan-wook to Hollywood: Obey your Thirst
Universal Pictures and Focus Films are teaming up to co-produce and invest in Oldboy director Park Chan-wook's latest film, the vampire thriller Thirst. The plot follows a priest who participates in a medical experiment in hopes of finding a cure for a deadly disease. It stars Song Kang-ho (The Host), Shin Ha-kyun (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), and the sultry Kim Ok-bi (Dasepo Naughty Girls) as the leading lady. Expect lots of sensational violence and risqué elements, because vampires + biting = sexy? This collaboration marks the first time a Korean film has received American financial and distribution commitment before its local release. CJ Entertainment will handle distribution in Asia. The film is slated for release in mid-2009. Hopefully this movie will turn out better than that dreadful looking Twilight movie. --William Hong
Do As Infinity reunites – but for good?
During their surprise performance at a-nation 2008 last month, Jpop group Do As Infinity announced plans of reuniting formally on September 29, 2008. Do As Infinity made their debut in 1999, with their single "Tangerine Dream". They had remained a successful group until their decision to disband exactly on the debut date, September 14, 2005. Following their breakup, all members pursued solo activities: lead singer Tomiko Van pursued a career as a solo artist, releasing four singles and two albums, while guitarists Ryo Owatari began with another band, Missile Innovation, and Dai Nagai worked as a songwriter for other artists. Do As Infinity's free performance at Japan's Yoyogi Park on September 30th will mark their first official appearance as a reunited group, with plans to have a short tour in November, stopping in Nagoya, Osaka and a three-day stint in Tokyo. The group will return to the recording studio and release new material in Spring 2009. --Kanara Ty
Bae is finally back with Drops of God
South Korean megastar Bae Yoon Yun is said to be producing a new TV drama series Drops of God, which will air in the second half of 2009. Like many before it, the TV drama series is an adaptation of a popular Japanese comic series Kami no Shizuku (Drops of God) written by Tadashi Agi and illustrated by Shu Okimoto. According to Reuters, the storyline follows a young man named Shizuku Kanzaki, who discovers the beauty of wine after his father, a famous wine critic, dies and leaves an unusual will: a description of 12 wines he considers to be the best in the world, a reference to Jesus Christ's twelve disciples. The manga surprisingly gave rise to a European wine boom in Korea and China as people learned enough about wine from the manga to make conversation and impress their friends. Bae's management company, Keyeast Inc., bought the rights from Japanese publisher Kodansha, and Bae is rumored to star as the leading character Itse Tomine. The show will start shooting early next year while Bae is recovering from an injury from his last project, The Legend. --Cathryn Chen
The Pop Art ex-minister is "different than you"
Nowhere else is art, politics, entertainment, and daily life so interconnected as in Japan; that's one of the lessons we can glean from Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's recent and sudden resignation, coincidentally only one year after Prime Minister Abe's sudden resignation. After the press conference Monday, a Chugoku Shimbum reporter mentioned that people thought Fukada detached and seemingly apathetic to the country's problems; to this, Fukada angrily replied "You said I sounded detached, but I am able to see myself objectively. I'm different than you." I'm different than you -- these are the words that, within just a few days, have inspired ASCII artwork and new lines of products in stores, such as Fukada candy, T-shirts, mugs, etc., all done with political cartoonist-styled artwork and carrying that phrase: I'm different than you. The unpopular Prime Minister is now, a few days later, an immensely popular and bestselling caricature. "We can't keep up with orders," said Tomohiro Miyake, president of Club T. --Ian Shaikh
Date Posted: 9/19/2008