INTRODUCTION Seeds of Sorrow and Joy
THE DIRECTOR All About Shunji Iwai The Interview with Shunji Iwai
THE FILMS The Filmography
The Featured Films
THE FESTIVAL The Special Event The Location
Shunji Iwai film festival is healed for his 20 years anniversary. It will be 20 years in 2015 since his first famous movie Love Letter was released in 1995. During these years, Shunji Iwai has made many master pieces which influenced a generation. Most of his films are about youth. He loves telling stories about lives of different young people. How they go through the process of growing up. This film festival will offer our guests a chance to relive the teenage time. We picked six movies which are most relevant to youth to make people empathize with the sensitive age. It is a film festival for young people and also for people who want to call up youth memories. We all have our own stories and most of us can find ourselves in Shunji Iwai’s films. Youth is full of both sorrow and joy. We were all like seeds growing up with laugh and tears. It may not be a big film festival, but it is one of the most emotional film festival. Shunji Iwai’s movies are not that exciting as Hollywood Masterpieces, while they always touch people. His world is in soft colors but with strong emotions. And our guests will be “seeds of sorrow and joy” and live through their youth again by coming this film festival.
Shunji Iwai is one of the most popular and influential
mas. Uchiage hanabi, shita kara miruka? Yoko kara miruka?
Japanese directors of his generation, the multi-talented
(1993) (TV) aka ‘Fireworks: Should We See It From the
Shunji Iwai is commonly recognized for his distinctive
Side or the Bottom ?’ impressively won the Japanese Direc-
and innovative visual style. Although describing himself as
tor’s Association Best Newcomer Award, a tribute usually
an “eizo sakka” (visual artist), characters and plot themes
given to directors of feature films. Iwai switched to theatri-
are often excellently developed in his films, all of which
cal productions with the short film Undo (1994). The short
he has personally scripted. Iwai has also edited several of
feature Picnic (1996) aka ‘Picnic’, about a trio of mental
his films, and has even scored the music for more recent
patients venturing outside to find a spot to view the end
efforts. Often using women protagonists, Iwai has garnered
of the world, was withheld from release until 1996 due to
fine performances from Japanese Pop singers in key roles,
a fear that the plot mirrored some aspects of the sarin gas
most notably Miho Nakayama in Love Letter (1995) and
attacks in Tokyo in March, 1995. So, Love Letter (1995),
Chara in Picnic (1996) and Swallowtail Butterfly (1996).
a touching drama with quirky humor, became his theatri-
A trend-setter, he has created a style that resonates with
cal feature debut. Typical of Iwai’s collaboration with his
Japanese pop culture, striking a chord with contemporary
preferred cinematographer, the late Noboru Shinoda, Love
Japanese youth, especially young women. Although Iwai’s
Letter (1995) is visually innovative. They pioneered the
films have been well received and awarded in film festivals
use of hand-held “scope” (2.35:1) camera work to lyrically
in and outside of Japan, notably in Toronto and Berlin, he
photograph snowy winter scenes. An artistic and com-
and his films are not yet well known outside of Asia.
mercial breakthrough, it played to sold-out audiences in
Fascinated by film, Iwai spent much of his youth in Sendai theaters before entering Yokohama National University in 1981 where he shot experimental films. Graduating in 1987, he began his career directing music videos and TV ads before beginning in 1991 to write and direct TV dra-
Japan. Swallowtail Butterfly (1996), set in the near future, was even more popular. Musical numbers such as “My Way” performed by pop star Chara became hits, with these segments of the film used for MTV. With Iwai now very popular, some TV shows such as the Capra-esque Christmas story Ghost. It played to sold-out audiences in Japan.
Japan, Swallowtail Butterfly (1996), set in the near future,
memorate the 30th anniversary of “Kit-Kat” bars in Japan.
was even more popular. Musical numbers such as “My
These were merged into a feature film about friendship and
Way” performed by pop star Chara became hits, with these
first love for theatrical release.
segments of the film used for MTV. With Iwai now very
Iwai’s first novel, `Love Letter’, was published in 1995 along
popular, some TV shows such as the Capra-esque Christmas story Ghost Soup (1992) (TV) shows such as the Capraesque Christmas story Ghost Soup (1992) (TV) and quirky crime tale Fried Dragon Fish (1993) (TV) were scanned to film for release in theaters. Iwai set the tone of his next feature, Shigatsu monogatari (1998) aka ‘April Story’ by using springtime weather creatively, with cherry blossom petals cascading like snowflakes in one early scene, and rain showers pivotal to the ending. He debuted as an actor in Shiki-Jitsu (2000) and then created an Internet chat site where he guided discussion to create a plot about the mythical pop singer Lily Chou-Chou and her music. This led in 2001 to a CD-ROM “novel” followed by a printed novel and the release of the theatrical feature Riri Shushu no subete (2001) aka ‘All About Lily Chou-Chou’ appropriately the first Japanese feature captured digitally rather than on film. Of many plots involving students, this is Iwai’s darkest. Iwai contributed the shortfilm, ‘Arita’ to Jam Films (2002), a compilation by seven Japanese directors. Hana to Arisu (2004) aka ‘Hana and Alice’ started as short films on the Nestle website to com-
with the film and ‘Swallowtail’ was published as a novel the following year. The fantasy novel ‘Wallece’s Mermaid’ appeared in 1997. Iwai has noted that many great films came from directors such as Welles and Coppola while in their 20s, but he still feels immature as a filmmaker. However he takes heart that some great novelists wrote their best works after they turned 40. It is possible that Iwai’s next masterpiece will be a novel instead of a film. Most recently, Iwai has been splitting his time between Tokyo and Los Angeles, developing international projects. The remake rights to his award-winning film, Love Letter, have just been licensed by New Line Cinema. In 2008 he served on the World Dramatic Competition Jury for the Sundance Film Festival. Also in spring of 2008, he was one of twelve directors asked to write and direct a segment in ‘New York, I Love You’, a follow-up to the critically acclaimed Paris, Je T’aime. His segment features the internationally famed actors Orlando Bloom and Christina Ricci. Other writers and directors collaborating for ‘New York, I Love You’ include Mira Nair, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, and Anthony Minghella.
THERE ARE THOSE
WHO LOOK AT LIFE
SCIENTIFICALLY AND OTHERS WHO
SEE IT AS
with SHUNJI IWAI
John Wheeler and Jordan Close DMD Grady Hendrix 13
February 19, 2010 Interviewed by John Wheeler and Jordan Close Shunji Iwai leaves a distinct impression. He stands a little off-kilter, almost on his heels. He avoids eye-contact, his long black hair partially obscuring his face. He speaks in a halting English that nevertheless betrays the depth of his love for cinema and films. This uncomfortable, passionate man is behind some of the most insightful Japanese films of the past 15 years (Love Letter, Swallowtail Butterfly, All About Lily Chou-Chou). He has spent the weekend at the USC-hosted “Contemporary Japanese Cinema: Elsewhere, Outside, In the World... “ -- A three-day event honoring his work and the work of two of his contemporaries, Shinji Aoyama (Eureka) and Ryuhei Kitamura (Azumi, Midnight Meat Train). Iwai first talks about Bandage, his latest work as screenwriter, which premiered in Japan several weeks ago. “It’s a story about a Japanese band in 1990,” Iwai says. “We had a huge band boom then and the film describes the success and failure of a band in that time.” Known for culling his stories from eclectic sources -- Lily Chou-Chou started as an internet novel based on fan input, Hana and Alice (2004) began with a TV commercial Iwai directed -- Iwai explains that he found the story for Bandage in a writing workshop he ran. A housewife submitted the story of a young indie rock band’s rise and fall in the cutthroat Japanese music scene, and Iwai took it to a producerdirector who he convinced to make the film. Like fellow festival guest Kitamura, Iwai moved to Los Angeles several years ago for a first-hand look at production on this side of the Pacific. “I wanted to see American film production, first of all,” Iwai says. “Second of all, I’ve never made an English-language film or a film in any other country’s language. I don’t want to make films just in Japan.” Iwai appears, however, to possess some uniquely Japanese
sensibilities. Both Hana and Alice and All About Lily ChouChou are beloved for their half-whimsical, half-serious look at adolescence in a Japan where identity is increasingly disjointed by the media. But Iwai’s work is far more complex than national boundaries, and he clearly wants to avoid becoming defined by a single character or story type. “That’s not my only theme,” Iwai replies defensively, immediately refusing to allow himself to be pigeonholed. “I also like other types of people, like kind of crazy guys. I’m not interested in a normal guy, like just a good guy doing good things. That’s boring for me. I prefer people who are missing something. Children are one of those kinds of people.” Now in America, Iwai is broadening his horizons -- and the scope of what “Japanese director” itself means -- even further. Against at least some logic, Iwai has a close relationship with Kitamura, a Japanese expatriate now living under the studio system in Hollywood. Kitamura’s latest film is Baton, a 50-minute animated feature drawn from a script by Iwai. The film is an international production, produced for Japanese audiences but animated via rotoscope in America. Iwai and his compatriot couldn’t be more different. Iwai is soft-spoken and possesses a subtle wit, and his films are often beautiful examinations of humanity flowering in the desolate technoscape of modern Japan; Kitamura is boisterous, a natural comic whose films are highly-stylized genre pictures drawing on multicultural traditions. Though the filmmakers became friends after their separate moves to Los Angeles, their connection goes further back, all the way to the project that made Kitamura a brand name in Japan: the manga-based ninja epic Azumi (2003). “The first time I met him [Kitamura] was because of Azumi,” Iwai says. “I was supposed to direct that film. It took over one year for the preparation. I wrote the script and read a lot of history books, so I was very familiar with the story.”
“I was really surprised to see the film he made,” he continues, acknowledging that his version was much different and much less faithful to the original manga. “I could understand that he really did a good job because I also did the same project. I think almost all Japanese directors tend to be more vague and imaginative, but he’s more clear. He really knows how the story is supposed to be.”
that somebody will make a bigger image size than 35 mm film -- like 70 mm -- and actually we have 70 mm cameras in film but it’s quite expensive so nobody dares to use it for movie. It’s so beautiful, but it’s so expensive, but if we use digital technique and create the digital camera for a movie, we can make the same-looking image as 70 mm and we don’t have to spend film. We only need memory.”
Like some of Iwai’s other films, Baton grabs at the common Japanese theme of the narrowing gap between human and machine. The film follows a humanoid android on a distant and fantastic world whose hard drive becomes infected with the consciousness of another robot.
“I like digital but I don’t like digital-looking,” he adds, finally. “I only like a more analogue, hand-made taste, but digital is one of the better ways to create that.”
“I got a chance to think about ‘What is myself? What is my consciousness?’” Iwai says. “The story is very short, but I’m still thinking about a longer version. I’d like to describe more about human consciousness.” “Baton emphasizes the ironic point: ‘the more you analyze robots and people, the more you realize that we are really like robots to begin with,’” he continues. “We also are creatures that are created by someone. Even our consciousness, it just serves some function for us. I’d like to describe more about what exactly it is.” Baton expresses these themes with a potent visuality: the clunky rotoscope employed by the filmmakers reflects the awkwardness of the android characters. Iwai’s movies are rarely flashy in the same way that a stylist like Kitamura’s are, but he clearly concerns himself with the important marriage between style and substance. As a visual artist, Iwai is constantly looking across the gulf between digital and analogue -- simultaneously asking questions of how the former can be employed in service of the latter. His films have a highly digital quality, but he finds that this uniquely gorgeous digital-electronic aesthetic has potential to replicate image in a way impossible for 35 millimeter. “I like analogue things more than plastic things. But as for picture quality, 35 mm is just half the size it can be, which is an issue for me,” Iwai says. “I’ve been expecting for 10 years
Iwai hasn’t directed a feature fiction film since the untimely death of his cinematographer and close friend Noboru Shinoda in 2004, though he made a segment of the ensemble piece New York, I Love You and a documentary about Japanese filmmaker Kon Ichikawa. During a discussion of Hana and Alice at the film event, Iwai spoke emphatically about the difficult process he and Shinoda went through to create the look of the film without overinflating the budget. He said it was imperfect -- and it is -- but that challenge seems to appeal to the visual stylist in Iwai. “The most interesting thing for me is looking for a good way to create,” Iwai says. “So if we are told a good camera is as much as we need, it’s a great thing; but at the same, I might feel a vacant feeling because that means I don’t have to look for something any longer. It’s kind of sad.” Shunji Iwai loves the cinematic image, and he loves the cinematic character, and his partnership with the more narrativedriven Kitamura makes strange sense on these terms. Iwai’s questions of consciousness and memory -- ideas that repeat themselves from film to film -- reveal a deeper personal concern with the impact his films will leave on the very gray matter of his viewer. “Every time I write, I’m watching out not for the feeling that I have right after watching a movie, but the feeling I have one month later or one year later. What part does the audience still remember? What picture do they still remember? What feeling do they still remember? That is most important.”
February 2010 Exclusive Interviewed By MDM MDM: Iwai, it’s a real pleasure having you participate in this interview, thank you for accepting our invitation. Especially as this is a very busy time for you with Sundance. You started out with television dramas and ‘Fireworks’ brought you ample critical acclaim. Was this what encouraged you to make the leap into directing full feature films or TV was just the ‘obliged’ step of the transition into a long-held filmmaking dream? IWAI SHUNJI: Of course, I have always dreamed of directing a feature film – I would think all directors would like to direct a feature one day. But I didn’t just want to direct – I also wanted to be the director who creates my own film. So directing TV dramas were one of my happiest days I remember – the TV producers allowed me to make whatever I wanted. MDM: Your filmography includes now over 30 titles but we’re going to concentrate on some of the most internationally-known: ‘Love Letter’, which consolidated your name beyond Japanese borders, is a beautiful account of how our memories work, especially when it comes to love and deep affections. Miho Nakayama is phenomenal at portraying the two main female roles. Was this challenge for the leading actress something you had envisioned from the very start, in your writing process? IWAI SHUNJI: In my first draft, one of them didn’t come out. Hiroko in Kobe, only her letters came out. It was right
after ‘Fireworks’, I was thinking the very calm and stable less dramatic story back then. Hopefully with black and white. Like OZU film. You know, I was thinking OZU’s parody. But one of the producers didn’t allow this idea, so another producer gave up and brought it from the TV drama to feature film. They welcomed me. But I was frightened. Nobody knew I was intending OZU’s parody, but of course I knew. MDM: In your opinion, can platonic love turn into true love or physicality must come into play at some point? IWAI SHUNJI: In the movie? Or in our real life? Anyway, both could be. But what interest me the most is “something like love”. It’s different from platonic. Different from love. Like the relationship between two the women in ‘Love Letter’, or between two boys in ‘All About Lily Chou Chou’, or between two girls in ‘Hana and Alice’. MDM: Some of your leading roles have been for Japanese pop-stars like Miho or Chara in the also famous ‘Swallowtail Butterfly’, and you, yourself, have a close relationship with music, having created the scores for your short ARITA and your first comedy ‘Hana & Alice’. Do you ‘feel’ the music that is suitable to each frame prior filming or do you think of the music once the visuals are finalized? Is it possible, especially for you, to separate them completely?
IWAI SHUNJI: I came up with some scores before shooting the film, similar to me drawing out the storyboard before I go into production, as well. But mostly I’m playing the piano watching the edited movie. The music I compose for my films are quite subtle and sensitive, that grabs the audience’s emotions. But funny thing is that the score of Debussy’s and Ravel and Ennio Morricone matches to a lot of shots, somehow MDM: ‘All About Lily Chou Chou’ is one of the films that most international fans has drawn, and even some Japanese people who would not feel particularly attracted to Japanese cinema confess having ‘converted’ thanks to this film. Please, Iwai, tell us a bit about how this story came about, and why you preferred a discontinuous story line. IWAI SHUNJI: My first image of this film came about when I was reading an article about a suicide of a junior high school student. I read it on my way back to Tokyo after we shot “Love Letter”. In “Love Letter”, I focused on some sweet memories in junior high. But the article reminded me of some dark sides of those days. I wrote the first draft of ‘All about Lily Chou Chou’ a couple years ago. But I was not satisfied with the script, so I gave up. But after I spoke with the musical producer, Kobayashi Takeshi, I came up with the idea of not releasing as a movie but as a internet novel. I started the website named “Lilyholic” and in the BBS of that, I brought over 10 characters and started talking about the murder case which happened at Lily Chou-Chou’s live. All episodes and characters including Lily are fiction. And users were able to write whatever they wanted. I collaborated with users and got the perfect character of Lily. MDM: Was ‘New York, I Love You’ your first project working with English-speaking actors and crew? What was this experience like for you?
IWAI SHUNJI: It was not so tough except for the language barrier. As for English, it’s impossible for me to control the language as much as Japanese. It’s difficult for me to write the dialogue only because it is not my native language, therefore it may come out forced and not genuine. I sometimes would ask the actors to improvise the dialogue so the conversation would come out natural and spontaneous. MDM: Your ‘Vampire’ is unlike any other movies of the genre, but would you please tell our readers what they surely cannot expect from it? IWAI SHUNJI: It is not your typical Vampire movie - that’s why I titled it “Vampire”, so people would be shocked and surprised coming out of it. You won’t see anyone being burned by the sun or biting of necks. It’s more a story about finding love, acceptance and companionship. MDM: Iwai, apart from Sundance, where can those who cannot wait for national and international release, watch the film? IWAI SHUNJI: You can see Vampire at the Berlin Film Festival, it will be in the Panorama section. And after that, it will be playing at the Hong Kong Film Festival. MDM: Well, Sundance certainly included it for a reason. Japan, watch out, the West is stealing away your best current directors…All the best with this and your future projects Iwai. IWAI SHUNJI: My next target is China. Thank you very much. It’s a really great interview.
September 9, 2010. Posted by Grady Hendrix Shunji Iwai loves women. The camera of his long-time collaborator, Noboru Shinoda, captures their faces as they light up like fireworks, as they crumble in grief, as they watch their life flicker out, as they mourn and celebrate, as they become prostitutes and pop stars, as they write letters to dead lovers and turn away from living ones, as they leave their old lives behind and fly away into the skies of a brave new world, and as they’re brought crashing down to earth by the cold, cruel world around them. Edited to the spastic rhythms of the future’s digital heartbeat, no one makes films this rapturously gorgeous anymore. Pulling together influences from shojo manga, trendy Japanese TV dramas, icons from the cult of celebrity, and the eternal healing power of pop music, Shunji Iwai has become the Douglas Sirk of the new world order, and no other moviemaker seems as effortlessly modern as he does: his films exist five minutes in the future and they never look back. Coming out of a career as a television writer, he surfaced with some award-winning shorts before his first feature, LOVE LETTER, a masterpiece of romance and mourning that he then turned into a manga and a novel. Editing, and often scoring, his movies Iwai labors long and hard and is reluctant to let his subjects go as mere movies. SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY, his second feature, was an immigration epic set slightly in the future where a polyglot community of scamsters counterfeited gobs of money and ran afoul of psycho gangsters. It become a sensation, the size of PULP FICTION, and ran practically forever. The lead, J-pop star Chara, starts the Yentown Band in SWALLOWTAIL, and the band lived on after filming, touring Asia under the watchful eyes of its producer, Shunji Iwai. His next film, APRIL STORY, a dreamy golden fable of a young woman moving to the big city and falling in love was anchored and elevated by Takako Matsu’s radiant star turn. Some folks found this miniaturist digression treasonous, but his latest, ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU, is a return to
the epic scope of SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY. An elaborate experiment in turning a non-existent pop star into a real world entity, CHOU-CHOU has solved more problems than most directors knew existed: getting inside the pants of hothouse problem teens, making keyboard typing work on screen, creating a pop icon who’s never seen. The movie is maddening and revelatory, it takes big chances and for every one that doesn’t work there’s another right after it that lights up the screen like fireworks. So why haven’t we heard of Shunji Iwai in the US? It’s simple: the critics hate him. LOVE LETTER played to standing-room-only crowds on its release in Tokyo, SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLY became a cultural touchstone in Japan, APRIL STORY was a landmark one-man show (Iwai even designed the tickets and carted the prints to theaters himself), and LILY CHOU-CHOU made big waves across the country. But most American critics are middle-aged men, and middle-aged men don’t want to hear about women’s feelings, or the internet, they don’t believe in pop music or that teenagers have real feelings. They only want to watch movies made by other middle-aged men about the kind of things middle-aged men care about, like having sex with teenage girls (hence – GHOST WORLD). At the end of the day, Iwai cares about women and children, and while they may get first dibs on lifeboat seats, most people who regard themselves as serious consumers of modern culture could care less. Iwai is fascinated by women because he thinks they’re tough. Not because they kick ass or beat up bad guys but because they’re alive in a way most men are scared to be. In Asia, audiences have voted with their pocketbooks: Iwai is regarded as one of the most successful living Japanese directors, in Hong Kong his movies are big events, and in Korea he’s the only Japanese director to have two of his films in the box office top ten. In America? We aren’t even told he exists.
Since this interview, way back in 2001, Shunji Iwai has gone on to make the transcendent Hana & Alice, and then he’s disappeared, working as a producer on movies like Bandge, but not turning out a single new ﬁlm. It’s our loss. This interview was conducted after All About Lily Chou-Chou played a press screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Q: During the press conference you had talked about how people in Japan needed to toughen up, but I noticed while watching the film that most of the female characters seemed tough enough already. Do you feel women are especially well-equipped to deal with life, especially at that age? A: Women are always tough, and I feel like they are much stronger than me, at least. In Japan, there was a tradition for women to leave the family home and go into an entirely new village, alone, and marry into an entirely new family and have children there, so if you think about that tradition, I guess the women in Japan have always been conditioned to be tough. Q: Most of your films are centered around a very strong female performance, often a real-life icon like Chara. Was it difficult working on a film like this where the central characters were two boys, and the central female character was never seen on screen? A: You’re right that this is the first time I’m making a film this way, and it was a nice change. It wasn’t that difficult for me. Q: A lot of your movies become more than just movies. They go on to be manga, TV shows and websites. Why can’t you just leave them alone and let them stand as movies? A: I guess I always try to explore new possibilities and that’s why there’re different products for my films. If I focus solely on the film I almost feel like a child doing a report for school, so I try to do different things that don’t fit into a fixed pattern.
A: I personally feel that people are the same no matter where you go, and I never have the experience where you take the same film to a different country and people receive it differently. I think people generally tend to receive films the same no matter what nationality they may be. Q: It’s just strange that most of your films can’t be seen in the United States. A: I think generally it’s difﬁcult for Japanese ﬁlms to be seen abroad, and I think that’s been true for a long time. I think with Love Letter some buyers saw it in Toronto and later on they came to japan to acquire the ﬁlm but the people on the Japanese side were not very well-versed in negotiating distribution deals. So now it’s been sold to America, but you can’t ﬁnd it on video anywhere. Q: You generally do more than just direct your films. You compose the music, and in the case of APRIL STORY you even designed the tickets. A: I guess I do like wearing many hats, but it is hard to do more than one role at a time. However, as a director the more roles you can fill in the production process the better off you are. At the end of the day teamwork is essential to the filmmaking process, but it’s not always the case that you can get a team of people you like or even people who are capable. So sometimes it’s the case that you must cover areas which are not as strong as you want them to be. It’s important to know different elements of the craft so that you can either fill in or find ways to make parts that are not as strong as you want them to be as strong as you want them to be.
Q: Why don’t Americans get your films? Do you think there’s something cultural that keeps them from engaging with them in the same way the Japanese audience does?
The Man Who Came to Kill Unknown Child
The Kids Who Wanted to View Fireworks form Another Perspective
All About Lily Chou-Chou
Ghost Soup Maria A Tin of Crab Meat A Summer Solstice Story
30 days with the Japanese National Football Team
Fried Dragon Fish The Snow King
Hana & Alice
Picnic Swallowtail Butterfly Moon Rider: Knit Cap Man
Takako Matsu, A Mirror in the Air
The Kon Ichikawa Story
New York, I Love You
All about Lily Chou-Chou
Hana and Alice
Love Letter “
A love story about two women’s feelings revealed through letters sent to the same man. Then film made waves at the box offices in Asia. In Korea, where Japanese films were banned at the time, it became the biggest underground phenomenon ever via pirated DVDs. The film has greatly influenced the paradigm shift that happened later in the Korean film industry.
—Toronto Film Festival, audience award
STORY Hiroko Watanabe is a young woman living in Kobe. Her fiance, Itsuki Fujii, was killed in a mountaineering accident, a tragedy she has not been able to recover from. When she visits Itsuki’s family house on the second anniversary of his death, she finds Itsuki’s old address in his school yearbook. Inspired, she decides to send a love letter to the address, even though it has already disappeared under a new national highway. However, she receives a letter in reply. The sender is a former classmate of her late fiance in junior high: Itsuki Fujii, a woman who coincidentally shares the same name. Through their exchanges of letters, the two woman begin to share their memories of the dead Itsuki Fujii.
CAST Nakayama Miho, Toyokawa Etsushi, Han Bunjaku, Shinohara Katsuyuki, Sakai Miki, Kashiwabara Takashi DIRECTOR/WRITING/EDITOR Shunji Iwai PRODUCER Komaki Jiro, Ikeda Tomoki, Nagasawa Masahito CINEMATOGRAPHER Shinoda Noboru GAFFER Nakamura Hiroki ART DIRECTOR Hosoishi Terumi SOUND Yano Masato MUSIC REMEDIOS PRODUCTION Fuji Television
Behind the Scene Most of the film was shot in the Otaru area on the island of Hokkaido. The only exception among the exterior scenes is near the end of the film as Hiroko faces the mountain where her ex-fiance’ Itsuki died in a climbing accident two years earlier. Although the house where she spent the night is actually on Hokkaido, the view from it in the film is of Mt. Yatsugadake. She is standing before it on the Nobeyama Highland at sunrise. Yatsugadake literally means “eight peaks” and the peak she is addressing is named “Aka-dake” or “red peak” which is the highest of the eight peaks at 2896 meters. This volcanic peak lies about 120 kms northwest of Tokyo and is in fact frequented by climbers. There is a magnificent view of Mt. Fuji from the summit. Itsuki works in the Otaru library in the film. The building used for both exterior and interior library scenes was originally an office of the Nippon Yusen Co. Ltd., a major shipping company. This two-story European Renaissance stone structure was completed in October, 1906, and shortly after its completion, the commission to determine the Russo-Japanese border on Sakhalin Island met in the second floor meeting room in accordance with the Portsmouth Treaty following the conflict between the two countries. The building was bought by the city of Otaru in 1955 and became a museum. In March, 1969 it was designated as a National Heritage Structure due to being an important late Meiji period stone structure. 34
HOCHI FILM AWARDS Best Actress (Miho Nakayama)
OCHI FILM AWARDS Best Supporting Actor (Etsushi Toyokawa)
TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL Audience Award
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Newcomer of the Year (Miki Sakai)
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Newcomer of the Year (Takashi Kashiwabara)
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Most Popular Performer (Etsushi Toyokawa)
BLUE RIBBON AWARDS Best Actress (Miho Nakayama)
KINEMA JUNPO AWARDS Best Film (Shunji Iwai)
Swallowtail Butterfly “
A fable about the successes and setbacks of illegal immigrants in the fictional near-future Tokyo, also called Yen Town.
Pusan International Film Festival, Moscow International Film Festival
STORY A long time ago, when the yen was the strongest currency in the world, many immigrants came to Japan, dreaming of getting rich. They built a territory called Yen Town, also called such by native Japanese, but in a derogatory way. In this town, an orphaned girl was rescued by the prostitute Glico, and was named “Ageha.” Ageha starts working with Glico’s friends, Fei Hong and Ran. They stumble across data that lets them print counterfeit money. Fei Hong becomes an instant millionaire by printing illegal notes, and he opens a live music venue called “Yen Town Club.” The Yen Town Band is born, using Glico as the lead singer. They become a huge sensation and Glico becomes a big star overnight. Capitalizing on this popularity, the Yen Town Band (in the film) actually released their debut album in real life, reaching the top of the charts. Meanwhile, a Chinese mafia group led by young boss Ryou Ryanki starts its search to get the counterfeiting data back, which changes the situation around Ageha...
Mikami Hiroshi, Chara, Ito Ayumi,
Eguchi Yosuke, Andy Hui, Watabe Atsuro, Yamaguchi Tomoko, Otsuka Nene, Momoi Kaori DIRECTOR/WRITING/EDITOR Shunji Iwai PRODUCER Kawai Shinya CINEMATOGRAPHER
SOUND Takizawa Osamu MUSIC Kobayashi Takeshi, YEN TOWN BAND PRODUCTION
“Swallowtail Butterfly” Production Committee
Behind the Scene The film was shot on hand-held cameras using jump cuts and other visual techniques. It covers a wide array of themes and genres, from social-realism to coming-of-age to crime. It has been both applauded and criticized by viewers. A theme song for the film under Yen Town Band “Swallowtail Butterfly (Ai no Uta)” gained No. 1 on the Oricon Weekly Singles Chart.
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Newcomer of the Year (Ayumi Ito)
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Most Popular Film
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Best Actress (Chara)
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Best Art Direction (Yohei Taneda)
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Best Cinematography (Noboru Shinoda)
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Best Film
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Best Lighting (Y�ki Nakamura)
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Best Sound (Osamu Takizawa)
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Best Supporting Actress (Ayumi Ito)
MOSCOW INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Golden St. George Award
FANT-AISA FILM FESTIVAL Best Asian Film
This wall-top traveling movie portrays the fragile inner world of young people with mental disorders.
STORY Inside a mental institution, Coco, who killed her younger sister, befriends Tsumuji and Satoru. They are prohibited from going outside the facility’s walls, but Coco suggests that they won’t be breaking any rules as long as they stay atop the walls. Thus they set out on a journey to see the end of world, walking along the wall which separates the institute from the city.
CAST CHARA, Asano Tadanobu, Hashizume Koichi
DIRECTOR/WRITING/EDITOR Shunji Iwai
PRODUCER Kato Yuko, Nanjyo Akio, Horibe Toru, Kamei Hiroyuki, Nagasawa Masahiko CINEMATOGRAPHER Shinoda Noboru
Fuji Television, Pony Canyon
BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Forum of new Cinema Prize of the Readers of the Berliner Zeitung
JAPANESE ACADEMY AWARDS Most Popular Performer (Tadanobu Asano)
YOKOHAMA FILM FESTIVAL Festival Prize Best Actor ( Tadanobu Asano) Best New Talent ( Chara)
Reviews “ This work by Iwai Shunji shows the strengths of the short film genre. Valuing atmosphere and cinematics as much as plot, it avoids the trap many primarily visual movies fall into by being just the right length to catch and hold the viewer’s attention. Iwai is at his best here, showing his Christopher Doyle influences (and, thankfully, not his earlier TV-directing influences). He has also managed once again to pull exemplary performances from the cast. The story itself follows three psychologically disturbed people who leave their institution on a misdirected quest. Beyond that it is difficult to avoid saying too much, as, after all, this is a short film and hence has an appropriately short script. While Iwai Shunji’s earlier works lie among the dregs of Japanese cinematography, Picnic (as well as Swallowtail) should elevate him to the status of one of Japan’s best modern directors. One can only hope that he can continue making works of this superb quality.” —Michael Brucia
“ To watch this film about three patients from a fairly grim looking mental institution you have to suspend one belief: The belief is that all three can just leave without being detected. Once you get beyond that, and you should, you are left with a film that is oddly both ugly and beautiful. The three patients are Coco (the wonderful Chara), Tsumuji (the equally great Tadanobu Asano) and Satoru (Koichi Hashizume). They are sent to the institution for reasons you find out about eventually, and once they leave the film really expands into a somewhat atmospheric but beautifully shot film, with you watching these three supposedly crazy people interact with themselves and, in my favorite scene, a priest. The film is not long, only 65 minutes or so, but I was deeply affected about what these three young people are all about. So, get beyond my little caveat and watch the world with them. I think its a richly rewarding film about the frailty of life. This is a great little film. Not being a fan of Japanese pop music my only knowledge concerning the singer Chara are the facts that she is married to Asano Tadanobu and that she has acted in two of Iwai Shunji’s films. However, I think that she did a fine job of acting, and the times in which she is racked by mental torment are quite moving. Asano Tadanobu’s acting is extraordinary. I felt my heart tightening when he reveals his darkest secrets to Coco. Great film. Check it out!” —Ben Roberts
April Story “
A love story of an innocent girl who believes in the miracle of love...A sparkling moment in April.
1998 Pusan International Film Festival: Audience Award
STORY A film within the film, Nobunaga Was Alive, also attracted public attention. Uzuki Nireno leaves Hokkaido for Musashino, in Tokyo, to go to college. She is so shy that she struggles a lot among new friends in inspiring environments, but she grows to enjoy her college life in her own way. Actually, she says she chose this university out of “an impure motive”... Uzuki’s secret little adventure begins...
Matsu Takako, Tanabe Seiichi, Fuji
Kahori, Rumi, Kato Kazuhiko DIRECTOR/WRITING
ART DIRECTOR Tsuzuki Yuji
Rockwell Eyes imc.
Behind the Scene In the opening scene, the family who are seeing off Takako Matsuâ€™s character are the actressâ€™ real family. They include her father Koshiro Matsumoto, a film and kabuki actor; mother Noriko Matsumoto, a former actress; brother Ichikawa Zengoro VII, a kabuki actor and her elder sister Kiyo Matsumoto.
Reviews â€œ For those who can remember or those who have yet to discover, the first few weeks at college away from home can be the most unsettling, scary, and challenging time of our life, yet few films have chosen to dramatize this commonly shared experience, preferring instead to dwell on outrageous varieties of antisocial behavior. In April Story, a 1998 film, Shunji Iwai continues his sensitive interpretations of the difficulties young people face in stepping gingerly into the adult world. This 68-minute film has little plot and no big events, only the small struggles of daily life that are filled with the subtle meanings that help us grow.
Set amidst the blossoming of the spring flowers in Japan that signal the start of the new Japanese school year, April Story, aided by a solo piano and the beautiful cinematography of Shinoda Noboru, has a calming and meditative effect. For the shy and innocent Uzuki Noreno (Takako Matsu), however, coming to Musashino University in Tokyo from rural Hokkaido may be the psychological equivalent of landing on the moon. In the first week alone, she faces the not too delicate questioning of fellow students about her background and why she came to college, the loneliness of being away from home for the first time, and the confusing time of signing up for classes and studying such strange topics as Investment in the Japanese Economy and Cultural Anthropology. Although withdrawn, Uzuki is adventurous enough to join a Fly-Fishing Club at the urging of her only friend Saeko Sano (Rumi), but is embarrassed when she confuses one Brad Pitt movie for another in a discussion with the group leader. One of the loveliest scenes takes place when the newly recruited club members stand in an open field and cast their fishing rods rhythmically into the air. Uzuki’s exploration of her surroundings brings daily trips to the local bookstore (where she is intrigued by a bushy-haired young clerk), an encounter with a harassing gentleman in a movie theater, and the inviting sounds of a street band. Fearfully, she reaches out to her neighbors but achieves little result. It is only late in the film that the real reason for her attending this particular university emerges and in a heavy spring rain that paints the city with a refreshing glow, the magic of first love begins to unfold.” — Howard Schumann
All About Lily Chou-Chou “
The film portrays and revolves around a group of disaffected youth and the problems they face: bullying, rape, and forced prostitution. The film originated from an interactive internet novel of the same title that Iwai Shunji himself set up. Some of the content from the film comes from actual BBS messages on the site.
Official selection of the 2001 Berlin International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. The film had a limited theatrical run in the United States.
STORY Yuichi Hasumi, who lives in a small country town, finds himself in a constant state of depression with problems at home and bullying at school. He finds solace in the music of charismatic singer Lily Chou-Chou and an online fan site and its forums, “LilyPhilia”, which he runs. Yuichi was first introduced to Lily the year before by his friend, Hoshino. Hoshino is gifted and excels in almost everything he does, but he suddenly changed, and becomes the leader of the bullies who terrorize the school. Soon, he targets Yuichi and one of their other classmates. Youko Kuno. His cruelty drives another classmate, Shiori Tsuda, to suicide. Hoshino’s attitude and action gradually escalates. That’s when it happens. At a Lily Chou-Chou concert, an unspeakable incident occurs.
CAST Ichikawa Hayato, Oshinari Shugo, Ito Ayumi, Aoi Yu, Osawa Takao, Inamori Izumi, Ichikawa Miwako DIRECTOR/WRITING/EDITOR
ART DIRECTOR Taneda Yohei
SOUND Takizawa Osamu
Shunji Iwai WARDROBE Shintani Hiromi
MUSIC Kobayashi Takeshi,
Rockwell Eyes inc.
Behind the Scene Ayumi Ito really shaved her hair for the movie. Lily Chou-Chou is a fictional singer. The songs in the movie is sang by a great Japanese singer named Salyu. At one point a character describes Hoshino’s mom as looking like Izumi Inamori. This is the actress that plays Hoshino’s mom. The idea of Lily Chou-Chou, the rock star, was inspired by Hong Kong singer and actress, Faye Wong. Ayumi Ito spent weeks training on the piano in order to do all of her scenes without a double. She became so obsessed with Debussy’s “Arabesque No. 1” that she made it her cell phone ring tone.
BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Panorama (Shunji Iwai)
6th Shanghai International Film Festival Best Music (Takeshi Kobayashi) Special jury Award (Shunji Iwai)
Reviews “ All about Lily Chou Chou begins with a series
videography by the boys themselves, humor-
of manually keystroked chat-room-style state-
ous close-ups of accompanying girls’ bodies
ments that introduce facts and ideas, mostly
included. During the non-video portions of
related to mythical pop-star “lily chou chou.”
the film, the colors are beautifully rich, with
This sort of cinematic introduction sounds sim-
verdant fields and saturated skies.
ilar to many other computer-age-themed films, but amazingly the keystroke dialogue between several anonymous internet fanatics continues past the credits and runs through almost the entire movie. The nicely-scripted, brilliantly executed text acts as the backbone that beautifully holds together a story that is ultimately about many things, including the fragility of relationships and the personas we use based on them, fanatical envy and love contrasted against blind rage and hate, metamorphosis, and technology versus nature. Although executed in an arguably confusing manner, consisting of many non-chronological vignettes, the film ultimately succeeds in depicting a modern-day story involving the relationship between two early-adolescent Japanese boys, their journey through life and school, their changing identities, and their fascination with and “connection” to the strangely popular musician, lily chou chou. Visually, the filmmaking complements the ideas perfectly. The camera is often puerile and shaky when showing the boys’ ventures and conversations. At one point, a vacation sequence is depicted solely through excited and dizzying amateur
The abrupt, but fitting pattern between flowing, dreamlike camera work, shaky camera work, textual discourse, and the eerily sensual, fictitious lily chou chou tracks provide a momentum that is both refreshing in its originality but effectively discomforting. By the film’s closing the style is not so much regretfully confusing as it is fittingly and fully dramatic, as well as both amazing and beautiful. The film is nothing short of art. Lastly, the film did well to keep free of preaching. With much of what goes on in the world today, filmmakers feel social commentary is an added bonus (or even a main goal) to depicting a narrative. This is not so much a problem until the viewer begins to feel manipulated in a propaganda-like fashion. This film is very much based in a realistic society with realistically harsh and shocking issues and occurrences. However, respectfully, this film does a fine job of depicting its characters and events in a manner that allows for the viewer’s empathy without pointing direct fingers or offering direct solutions. Incidentally, much of the films drama and marvel comes from this quality.” — J. Harlan
Hana and Alice “
The film is a feature-length version of the internet-only short films, but the story itself differ from the get-go and takes unpredictable twists and turns throughout. The story includes the world of Alice that was never fully developed before and a plot in which Hana plays against Alice that wasn’t in the short film version.
It is a bittersweet yet comical coming-of-age romance. STORY Hana and Alice are junior high students who take a ballet class together. One morning on their way to school, Hana develops a crush on Miyamoto, a high school student they see at the train station. The following year, the girl enter Tezuka High, where Miyamoto goes to school. Hana joins the Rakugo Club, a club Miyamoto is also a member of ,and starts to stalk him innocuously, On the way home, Miyamoto accidentally smashes his head against a steel door, which knocks him out cold. Hana, stalking him but keeping a reasonable distance, runs up to him. As he gradually regains consciousness, she says something unthinkably bold: “Oh my goodness, you have amnesia! Do you remember that you just confessed your true feelings to me?” Furthermore, she uses Alice as an accomplice to cover up her lies. Hana, Alice, and Miyamoto; this is the beginning of a very strange love triangle.
Suzuki Anne, Aoi Yu, Aida Shoko, Abe
Masuko Hiroaki, Kishi Naotaka
Hiroshi, Hiraizumi Sei, Kimura Tae, Osawa Takao, Hirosue Ryoko
PRODUCTION/PRODUCE Rockwell Eyes inc.
Shunji Iwai PRODUCER Kawai Shinya
CAMERA OPERATOR Tsunoda Shinichi
JAPANESE PROFESSIONAL MOVIE AWARD Best Actress (Yuu Aoi)
Reviews From the dark world of junior high school boys in All about Lily Chou-chou, Iwai has shifted to the lighter world of two high school girls.
“ It may look like just another saccharine love-triangle romance, but ‘Hana and Alice’ is actually a deceptively tender and subtle paean to how gorgeous and sweet friendship can be. Although initially we have two high-school girls, Anne Suzuki and Aoi Yuu, squabble over a hapless senior, the film isn’t really about teen crushes and jealousy. Instead, as layers of each girl’s background and character are peeled away, we discover a surprising amount of depth and resonance to Hana and Alice’s friendship. The ballet scene is much talked about and fawned over, but the real highlight for me was where we find out that Hana was in fact a near-autistic child, shunning the outer world from her flower house, until Alice came along and enticed her out into the world. This scene increases the emotional strength of both the film and the girls’ relationship exponentially, and turns the movie from merely entertaining into truly touching. Director Shunji Iwai once again establishes a particularly delectable mood - as only he can - and has the guts to carry it all the way. Although most of the press and public attention in the Far East focused on the freshness of Aoi Yuu, it is the former child actor Suzuki Anne who gives a performance of veritable subtlety, so nuanced and superbly mannered that you almost don’t notice it until you give it a thought. She has the less flashy and more mundane role of the two, yet there isn’t one moment where she’s caught acting, something that sadly can’t be said for Yuu. To think that Suzuki has just turned 18 - what a career she has in store for us. Although somewhat long and dragging in places (you can only enjoy so many shots of young girls in tights dancing - no, hang on...) ‘Hana and Alice’ is a rare instance where one is allowed a flight of fancy without the attendant guilt, and in which friendship is explored with affection not angst. Don’t let the fluffy romance tag fool you: this is a film which makes you nostalgic for those dreary days back in youth when you had your best friend walk alongside you on the way to school and didn’t realize how special or fleeting it was.” —Kji Hwan
all about the
EVENT Film Music Concert
Film Music Concert
Shunji Iwai will come to Tokyo not to screen a new film, but to perform as the pianist in a concert of theme music from his famous films. The “Shunji Iwai’s Film Music Concert” will be staged at the Tokyo National Film Center at Jan. 26 night. The concert will feature famous theme music from Iwai’s “Love Letter” (1995), “All About Lily Chou-Chou” (2001), “Hana and Alice” (2004), “April Story” (1998) and “Swallowtail Butterfly” (1996). Pianist Yui Makino, who has cooperated with Iwai in many of his scores, will be the principal pianist, while Iwai will play some pieces on his own, as well as a duet with Makino. Video clips will show some of the famous scenes and also tell behind-the-scenes stories about the movies and music cre-
1. April Front
11. Love Song
2. Fishing Field
12. My Way
3. Hallway LOVE LETTER HANA AND ALICE
13. A Winter Story
4. Fish in the Pool
14. Small Happiness
5. Sweetie 6. Amnesia
7. Dancin’ in the Rain
15. The Highest Wall 16.. Paradise
ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU 8. Under the Leaf 9. Arabesque 10. Breathe
all about the
LOCATION NATIONAL FILM CENTER, TOKYO 東京国立近代美術館フィルムセンター
History The Only National Institution for the Preservation and Research of Films Built Where Cinemas Used to Be in the Meiji Period The National Film Center(NFC) started out in 1952 as the Film Library Section of the National Museum of Modern Art. Kyobashi, where the National Museum of Modern Art was first established, is an area in which cinemas existed from the Meiji period. In 1930, the former headquarters of Nikkatsu was also built in Kyobashi so that it has always been a place noted in connection with Japanese cinema. After the Fine Art Section of the Museum moved to the present location in Kitanomaru Koen in 1969, the Film Library Section was expanded. The current NFC was opened in its present location in 1970. Over the years, the building gradually became outdated and it became evident that more functional facilities were called for. In 1986, the Sagamihara Branch was newly built in Kanagawa in order to permanently preserve the films in the Museum Collection. Furthermore, NFC in Kyobashi was also entirely rebuilt and reopened in May 1995. Both buildings were designed by architect Yoshinobu Ashihara.
Directions One-minute walk from exit 1, Kyobashi station(G10), Subway Ginza Line One-minute walk from exit A4, Takaracho station(A12), Subway AkasakaLine Five-minute walk from exit 7, Ginza-Itchome station(Y19), Subway Yurakucho Line Ten-minute walk from Yaesu south exit, Tokyo station, JR Line
2nd floor Cinema 1 This hall is equipped with a variety of projectors corresponding to the diverse formats that have emerged in the history of cinema. Serial shows under different themes are shown in this hall, which can seat 310 people. Basement Cinema 2 Like Cinema 1, this hall is also equipped with the State-of -the-art projectors and can seat 151 people.
The National Film Center (NFC) is an exclusive national institution dedicated to the preservation and research of cinema and is a full member of the FĂŠdĂŠration Internationale des Archives du Film(FIAF). Japanese and foreign films and non-film materials are gathered, preserved, and restored at NFC. There are also series of film screenings under diverse themes, books and periodicals on cinema that are open to the public in the library, and cinema-related non-film materials that are on display in the gallery. In conjunction with the Agency for Cultural Affairs, NFC selects fine films to be shown and promoted in public halls all over Japan. Moreover, information is exchanged on a global level with fellow institutions of the FIAF. 85
Jan. 24, 2015
Jan. 25, 2015
MEETING SHUNJI IWAI
Jan. 26, 2015 1:00 PM
ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU
HANA AND ALICE
Special Event 8:00 PM—10:00 PM
FILM MUSIC CONCERT
Designed by Manjia Zhao Font Used: Bodoni Old Face Edwardian Script Printing & Binding by Manjia Zhao San Francisco, 2012 All Rights Reserved ÂŠ Seeds of Sorrow and Joy Film Festival