This year's Japan Film Festival of Los Angeles brought selections including The Sky Crawlers, Blitzkrieg Bop, A Long Walk, Vacation, Funuke: Show Some Love You Losers!, and more.
Golden Horse-winning director Tom Lin Shu-yu talks about turning high school memories into his acclaimed first feature Winds of September.
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Lou Ye is un-banned (sort of), Tsuyoshi Kusanagi learns that public nudity doesn't help sell digital TV advertisements, and Bollywood's Feroz Khan leaves behind a legacy. All this and more in the latest edition of News from Abroad.
Tsuyoshi Kusanagi: "What's Wrong with Being Naked?"
Tsuyoshi Kusanagi of popular idol group SMAP was recently arrested for public nudity. In the early morning of April 23, neighbors complained of Kusanagi causing a ruckus in the Akasaka neighborhood in central Tokyo, where he was found naked and shouting in Hinokicho Park near the Tokyo Midtown complex. Kusanagi was arrested, so it can be assumed he was violent in resisting the police. Following the incident, Kusanagi was pulled from multiple advertisements and endorsements, including a high-profile role in being the face of publicity materials for Japan's switch from analog to digital cable. However, while there was further speculation that Kusanagi's actions would take a big hit for his career and SMAP, Tokyo prosecutors decided not to indict him due to the fact Kusanagi expressed his apologies and has had a clean record. While he has received a lot of negative feedback, fans have been very sympathetic to his situation. His agency, Johnnys and Associates, have already stated he will likely make a quick return, but decisions have yet to be made. SMAP is also no stranger to scandals: member Goro Inagaki ran away from a parking violation, which turned into an ugly hit-and-run. It later resulted in his suspension from group activities, but he was able to return to the group months after. --Kanara Ty
Lou Ye not the only one back in Cannes
The Western media loves that Lou Ye is back in Cannes with Spring Fever, after his previous feature Summer Palace got the director banned from filmmaking by the Chinese government, for playing the festival without permission. But anybody who knows what happened to Zhang Yimou and Tian Zhuangzhuang in the 1990s will know why it's no surprise that "banned" directors keep premiering new films at Cannes, and why the media can't get enough of it. The real surprise of this year's festival is that Asian cinema is back! After dwindling into the single digits in recent years, and striking out (or getting bases on balls, or getting hit by pitches) in the last few years, Asian films at Cannes are back with a fury. Specifically, it's the old masters who are back in town, and for those in the know, only their last names are necessary: Mendoza, Tsai, To, Kore-eda, Bong, Rataranuang. (Ang Lee, Park Chan-wook, and Lou Ye probably need more than a last name.) Up-and-comers Adolfo Alix Jr., Zhao Liang, and Rava Martin are in the Special Screenings sidebar, while actresses Shu Qi and Zhang Ziyi are on the features and shorts juries, respectively. If Asian cinema hoards back some gold, it'll be Cannes' most Asian year since 2004 --Brian Hu
Bollywood actor Feroz Khan passes away
Acting in over 50 films in the 70s and 80s, Feroz Khan also racked up eight director/producer credits to his name. He not only earned the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 but was honored again in 2008 with a second Lifetime Achievement Award at the Zee Cine Awards. Born in Banglore to an Afghan father and an Iranian mother, Khan made his debut in a 1960 film called Didi. 1965's Oonche Log and Arzoo propelled him to stardom, but it waas his role in 1969's Aadmi Aur Insaan that earned him critical acclaim and a Filmfare Best Supporting Actor award. His successful 1975 film Dharmatma, based on The Godfather, was the first film he directed, produced, and starred in. After making more hits such as Qurbani and Janbaaz, he took a long break from Bollywood before coming back to launch his son's Fardeen Khan career. The younger Khan has starred in recent hits such as No Entry and Heyy Babyy. One of Feroz Khan's last wishes, reportedly, was that his hit film Qurbani be remade with his son in the lead role, a project that has been announced and is in the works. --Ada Tseng
Lee Jun Hyun is back
Lee Jung Hyun (Wa, Bakkwo) recently announced that she intends to return to the music industry. The singer/actress has intentions of redefining her style with more pop, departing from her famous techno style. Admitting my own music biases, in my dance craze, I put Lee Jung Hyun up alongside some of my personal favorites: Koyote and Kim Hyun Jung. Yet, can Lee Jung Hyun make a reappearance with a new style? Well, people often note that her style, as well as her performing, is her strongest point, and anytime I tell people that I am a fan, they immediately poptheir pinkies to the corner of their mouths, imitating her signature microphone. Looking at the photos released for the upcoming mini-album, Lee Jung Hyun is dressed in flamboyant French attire under the theme of Marie Antoinette. Clearly Hyoni has not lost her style which is so adorably "unique." Yet we have to admit that Lee Jung Hyun has "come back" before, pointing back to the Latin-inspired album Passion and her other Pop-based comeback, Fantastic Girl. The new mini-album is scheduled for release in mid-May. On this album, Lee worked with composer Lee Min Soo. Lee Jung Hyun also has intentions of a putting on a new concert to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of her debut. I can wish her the best while I mourn what appears yet another sign that my beloved techno is dead. --Frederick Stiehl
HEATH confirms, SUGIZO joins X Japan for Tokyo Dome concerts
This past weekend, X Japan entered their Tokyo Dome concerts with a full lineup -– including a sixth member, SUGIZO, former guitarist of JRock band LUNA SEA. In March, bassist Heath was having issues with his own management agency, which led to two cancelled Korean concerts, as well as delayed ticket sales for this past weekend’s Tokyo Dome shows. HEATH took an interest in leaving the band, but Yoshiki was able to get him to stay on board. Prior to the X Japan announcement this past Thursday, SUGIZO and Yoshiki worked together as part of the supergroup SKIN (also featuring Miyavi and Gackt) and served as a support member for X Japan in March of last year, as well as attending a fan meeting in place of Yoshiki’s absence due to his health issues. –-Kanara Ty
Jackie Chan up to his 100th film!
The Hong Kong-native action hero will star and co-direct Chinese Zodiac, an action caper with a budget set at 250 million yuan ($37 million), Chan told The Hollywood Reporter. Chinese Zodiac will send Jackie Chan on a series of treasure hunts around the globe, with explorations that are closely tied with major events in Chinese history. Chan states, "The theme of the film revolves around a subject close to the hearts of Chinese people around the world." The international star also reveals that the idea for Chinese Zodiac emerged more than six years ago, but was placed on hold until now due to scheduling conflicts. He is set to co-direct Zodiac's Stanley Tong, whom he has collaborated with five times before. Filming is tentatively scheduled for the Fall, with location shooting to take place in France, Vienna, Hong Kong, Beijing and Kazakhstan. --Kristie Hang
Ace in the Card Game
Leena Yadavh's Hindi new film Teen Patti, aka Card Game, is currently shooting in England. It features Sir Ben Kingsley and Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan. Bachchan mentions on his blog that Kingley, the Oscar winning star of Gandhi, is confirmed to act in Teen Patti. Bachchan will play a professor who instructs his five bright students, opening the door to the realm of high stakes gambling. The film parallels with the plot of the Jim Sturgess hit film, 21. Perhaps Pierce Brosnan will make a appearance as well. --Joyce Huang
Lu Chuan's third film has impressive opening
Lu Chuan's black and white drama City of Love and Death, also known as Nanking! Nanking!, is about the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, and it earned an impressive 10.3 million yuan in China after opening for five days. The film, which was originally set for a 2008 release, recounts the horrors of Japanese occupation. The release of City of Love and Death was one of the widest China has ever seen, beating out his second film, Kekexili, which did not do as well as expected. --Kristie Hang
What is up the sleeve of Zhang Yimou?
Now that the Olympics are over and everyone was wowed by Chinese gymnast Li Ning flying through the air around the magnificent bird nest-like stadium during the much-watched opening ceremony, Zhang Yimou is ready to get kickin' with his film directorial talents. Zhang hasn't made a movie since 2006's Curse of the Golden Flower, which also showcased his stunning ability to capture the grand Chinese palace and its luxurious, golden landscape. Remaining mysterious about the plot and landscape of Zhang's latest project, his assistant, Pang Liwei, will only confirm that ther are "comedic elements," and that Zhang will begin shooting his new movie in late May or June. --Joyce Huang
The break-up is official; Nam Kyu Ri is going to be leaving popular R&B trio SeeYa. The word is that the conflict was over contract negotiations as SeeYa transferred to Core Contents Media. Their previous company, GM, was later absorbed into Mnet. While the other two singers, Kim Yeon Ji and Lee Bo Ram, signed onto Core Contents Media, as agreed in their initial contract in 2006, Nam refused to do so, citing mistreatment as a reason. Rumors also hold that Nam has intentions of expanding upon her beginning career in acting. Her departure was officially announced on April 20th. Given the remaining two years on the contract and the previous agreement on the transfer, Nam is now being sued for breach of contract. In either case, the release of SeeYa's anticipated fourth album has been significantly delayed. Rather than dissolve, SeeYa has instead opted to enlist the vocals of Ji Yeon of Mnet's group T-ara. --Frederick Stiehl
Fake Takeshi Honda resigns from teaching
Anime studio Khara announced last Friday had taken on the identity of famed Khara animator Takeshi Honda to take on two part-time lecturer positions at two universities in Japan. Honda is well known for his own participation as a key animator and mechanical animation director on the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series, as well as the theatrical releases released recently. Honda served as a character designer on the “Beyond” short for The Animatrix, as well as Millennium Actress. The investigation for this case began last year when Khara started to receive evidence from students about a “Takeshi Honda” teaching at both Joshibi University of Art and Design’s College of Media Arts and Shobi University from April 2001 to January 2009. The fake also went on to make claims that “Takeshi Honda” is only a working name and left after some issues with Satoshi Kon as well as the fact that the real Takeshi Honda took over his name and resume. This particular “Takeshi Honda” has since resigned from both positions. --Kanara Ty
Date Posted: 5/1/2009