News and Opinion

Kurosawa Kiyoshi

The second director to come to my summer class was Kurosawa Kiyoshi. Kurosawa-san and I go back a couple of years: we were first introduced by Aoyama Shinji, but I only had a real talk with him when I interviewed him after Bright Future. He kindly came to Yale in March 2006 when we hosted Kinema Club and gave a workshop on film (he mostly discussed other directors) and commented for a panel on Japanese horror. I think this was the first time I've seen him since then. We showed Cure and again went out drinking afterwards (this time to a better place). 

As some students noted, on a personal level Kurosawa-san is a marked contrast from Hiroki-san. They are about the same age (Hiroki-san is one year older), but whereas Hiroki-san wears funky t-shirts, hangs out with young people, jokes around, and quickly answers questions, Kurosawa-san wears conservative clothes, tends to be serious (without being stiff and formal), and thinks very carefully before answering. In terms of translating, Kurosawa-san is a lot easier to interpret for because he is quite measured in his speech. 

Hiroki Ryuichi

Sorry for the lack of posts. The summer class was frankly one of the toughest classes I have taught, not because of the students--who were great--but because of the time involved. My last post was written during the last week of class, after which I had grading, a trip to Hokkaido, cleaning up and packing, and the plane back to the States. Now I am back in Connecticut.

But my class was graced with some nice guests in the last few days. The first one was the director Hiroki Ryuichi. I've known Hiroki-san for some years, since when I first met him at the Tokyo Film Festival after a screening of I Am an SM Writer (he kindly said he had read my review of Night Without Angels). I had more opportunities to talk with him when we were both invited to the Dejima Film Festival and later to Nippon Connection. It was he who kindly gave me a birthday cake during a Q and A session after one of his films at Dejima and joked about making a movie called "Tokyo Ramen Baby" about a traveling ramen stand in Europe with me in a side role as a crazy customer. Hiroki-san is a nice guy, though we somewhat live in different worlds.

Akatsuka Fujio

This may not be that directly related to film, but one of my favorite manga artists (and one of the favorites of my son), Akatsuka Fujio, died on the 2nd at the age of 72. Akatsuka was one of the famous residents of Tokiwa-so, the rundown apartment where many of the postwar manga greats like Tezuka Osamu, Ishinomori Shotaro, and Fujiko F. Fujio lived. Akatsuka worked in a variety of genres, including shojo manga (his Himitsu no Akko-chan was a big hit as an anime), but his genius lay in gag manga, creating such great works as Osomatsu-kun, Moretsu Ataro, and especially Tensai Bakabon, the masterpiece that deconstructs, if not destroys the very premises of manga. He never quite surpassed such a devastating and brilliant work, but his experimental and playful verve continued, as he made some silly movies in the late 1970s like Shimooichiai yakitori mubi and Akatsuka Fujio no poruno gyagu. He was on good terms with the comedic fringe (he's famous for supporting Tamori when he was starting out), and also had connections with the radical left (the only time I ever met him was at the party for Adachi Masao when he got out of jail). His gags became popular phenomenon, and even Godzilla was once caught doing a "shey" (the body gesture Iyami always did in Osomatsu-kun).  

Tsuchimoto Noriaki Memorial Service

I have been incredibly busy with my Japanese cinema class in Tokyo, so sorry for the lack of updates. 

I did want to write about the memorial service for Tsuchimoto Noriaki last Saturday. We arrived early at the Josui Kaikan in Jinbocho because my wife had been asked to help at the reception desk. And then more and more people arrived. In the end, the hall was packed with about 500 people and many had to stand. (See the photo in the lobby below.) Pretty much everyone in the documentary, and many in the fiction film world was there.

It was a nice service. Tsuchimoto's daughter showed photos of his last days, staff members like Otsu Koshiro talked about his work, and his elder sister made everyone laugh by kindly suggesting that there might have been a little exaggeration here and there in his description of their childhood life. Hani Susumu gave the toast at the end. At the event, they were selling copies of Tsuchimoto's last book, Dokyumentari no umi e, which is a thick interview book done with Ishizaka Kenji. Chock full of pictures and information, it is a must for anyone who wants to know about postwar Japanese film.

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