Friday, 6 August 2010

Japanese film: pt3

Coming soon, the film version of Haruki Murakami's worldwide bestseller, Norwegian Wood. He's not my favourite writer – and of his books, I actually most like his oral history of the gas attack on the Tokyo subway, Underground, as much as his fiction.

One point of interest, though, is that this will be made by French (and Vietnamese) director Tran Anh Hung. He made the stunning Scent of Green Papaya, Cyclo and the Vertical Ray of the Sun. He also unfortunately made I Come With the Rain, the kind of film that gives art films a bad name. That was not set in Japan, but co-starred Japanese actor/singer/tarento (or "talent") Takuya Kimura.

What many unfamiliar with Japanese cinema might be surprised at is the sheer number of Japanese films made each year. As Japan is the only country speaking Japanese, this industry feeds a home-audience its only diet of Japanese-language movies. But despite Japanese film's reputation generally, the majority are completely un-noteworthy – and usually not helped by the appearance of ubiquitous "talent".

There are the exceptions that dramatically stand out in this large film industry – and exceptions that essentially stand outside of it and on their own, like Miyazaki – but the home-grown pool is ever-increasing, in part, it is said, because people have become lazy when it comes to reading subtitles.

Meanwhile, in recent years, another good film stands out among Japanese films as being made by a foreigner: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Cafe Lumiere was impressive. Hou Hsiao-Hsien also has made a stock of great movies before following Cafe Lumiere with a terrible one, Three Times, so hopefully Tran Anh Hung will reverse that order and follow on from his dip of I Come With the Rain with an improvement with Norwegian Wood.

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