Tuesday, September 27, 2011

At 99, Kaneto Shindo calls it a day

Director Kaneto Shindo at a press conference during the Tokyo International Film Festival held in Roppongi Hills in October 2010. Source: here.

The director of such Japanese horror classics as Onibaba (1964) and Kuroneko (1968) has made his final film.

Released nationwide in Japan in August 2011, Shindo's Post Card is an antiwar saga that draws on the veteran director's lifetime experiences. According to the Japan Times:

The film hopes to portray "the absurdity of war," he told the audience at the film's premiere at a cinema in Shinjuku, Tokyo, on Aug. 6, the 66th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. The film also began showing on Aug. 6 in Hiroshima, and on Saturday nationwide.
The movie "will remain even after I die," Shindo said from his wheelchair, to applause from the audience.
The film won the Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2010.
Director Shindo was born on April 22, 1912. Beginning his film career in 1934, he would enjoy enormous success as a film director and screenwriter, amassing numerous awards throughout his career.

But the best may be yet to come.

Eiren (the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan) has selected Post Card to be its official entry in the Academy Awards' Best Foreign Language Film category. You can read more about it here.

If Post Card gets nominated, I know which film I'll be rooting for!

To view the trailer (which contains snippets from Shindo's press conference), follow the link below:

Edogawa Rampo rampages in English!

Acclaimed mystery writer Edogawa Rampo ponders black lizards, malformed men, and blind beasts. Just another day at the office for this prolific Japanese author... Source: here.

If the name Edogawa Rampo sounds a bit like Edgar Allan Poe to you, then 1) you're quick on the uptake, or 2) you're already familiar with the work of author Taro Hirai (1894-1965), who took the aforementioned pen name as a nod to one of his main influences.

And, if you're already familiar with the name of Edogawa Rampo, it's likely through the movies based on his writings, such as Kinji Fukasaku's Black Lizard (1968, featuring fellow author Yukio Mishima), Teruo Ishii's Horrors of Malformed Men (1969), and Yasuzo Masumura's Blind Beast (1969).

While the above titles have been written about and discussed by fans of Japanese genre films, how many of these fans have actually read the source material? What's that, you say? They're not available in English?

Ha! Ha, I say!

"Eh," sez Edogawa Rampo to fellow writer (and Black Lizard actor) Yukio Mishima. "If they made a movie about my life, I'd so get more than four chapters." Source: here.

Thanks to a couple of book publishers who specialize in translating Japanese fiction into English, you now have your chance!

Kurodahan Press has translated Black Lizard into English, and it can be purchased here. Meanwhile, Shinbaku Books has done the honors for Blind Beast, and that title can be bought by following this link.

And, for something not-so-completely different, Tuttle Publishing has translated Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan into English, which will have you howling, "Kowai!" It can be purchased here.

With Halloween on the horizon, the time is right to crack open a few of these books! Break out those reading glasses today!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hangin' with Akira Takarada

Sometimes a photo says it all: Akira Takarada drives me around Asakusa, Tokyo.

One person I alwaus love seeing in Tokyo is the one and only Akira Takarada. I've had the great fortune to meet up with this legend of the silver screen every time I've visited Tokyo. I've come to know him quite well ever since I assisted him during G-FEST 2010 in Chicago, and it never ceases to amaze me how close I've become to one of my childhood heroes.

Out and about: Mr. Takarada checks out some items for sale on the sidewalk.

During this visit, we searched out a suitable place to eat dinner. After strolling around Asakusa for a good while, we decided on a Korean restaurant we found. Mr. Takarada enjoys that particular style of food, and I decided to give it a go.

Gettin' ready to eat, Korean-style!

One of the delicacies on the menu, which threw me for a loop, was tongue. Yes, tongue. I'm not that adventurous when it comes to sampling new foods, so I was, to say the least, a bit apprehensive about taking part. However, given whose presence I was in, I went for it. It wasn't bad, but I don't think I'll make it a regular part of my diet!

Cooking up something interesting...

After our meal, we strolled around a bit more. Mr. Takarada kept me up to date with the latest news about his acting career, and I shared some of my teaching experiences. It was a great evening, and the soon-to-be fall air was a nice touch.

Thus ended my evening with Akira Takarada. As always, it was truly an honor to spend time with him. If only every star treated his fans with such respect.

Beware the Ulf-man!

Former Seatopian operative Ulf Georgii-Hemming (whom you may know under his alias Wolf Otsuki) strikes a pensive pose inside the Danish restaurant Scandia in Yokohama, Japan.

If you're a loyal reader of this blog (and, hey, who isn't?), you may remember this blog post from May of this year. I paid tribute to one of the coolest dues in Japan, Ulf Georgii-Hemming.

Ulf and Brett, about to chow down in Yokohama.

I had the opportunity to meet up with Ulf again during my last trip to Tokyo. Unlike our first meeting, this was a one-on-one affair, and I was surprised to learn that Ulf wanted to take me to Yokohama!

Look at all that ice cream! I'm getting a brain freeze just looking at it!

He took me to Scandia, one of his favorite restaurants in the Tokyo-Yokohama area. It serves Danish food, which, thanks to my good friend Ib Melchior, I'm already a little accustomed to. Although I'll always be a burgers-and-pizza kinda guy, I did enjoy the food served to us.

It also marked my first time in Yokohama. From one of the buildings upper floors, I managed to take a couple of photos of Cosmo Clock 21, the well-known (to kaiju enthusiasts, anyway) location seen during Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992). More impressive, however, was the sight of Tokyo Bay. Even though I've seen it featured in many Japanese films (most notably Toho's 1975 actioner Conflagration, with Hiroshi Fujioka and Tetsuro Tanba), you simply must see it in person to appreciate its sheer size.

That's all, folks!

A big thank-you to Ulf for driving me around Tokyo and Yokohama. Let's do it again!

Tokyo: The Movie!

Ulf Georgii-Hemming (a.k.a. Wolf Otsuki) drives me to Yokohama, shortly before a massive typhoon hits the area. Mr. Georgii-Hemming played the bearded Seatopian agent in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) and has appeared in numerous tokusatsu TV series during the 1970s.

While I managed to snap a bunch of photos during my recent visit to Tokyo, I shot some footage, too.

The video clip below was taken completely by accident. I must have hit the record button on my camera as I tried to take a photo of me with Ulf. Still, it's a pretty fun video, and it captures some of the fun we had that day.


Tokyo: Scene to Seen

New vs. old Tokyo: The brand-new Tokyo Sky Tree and Sensoji's pagoda in Asakusa face off in the showdown of the millennium!

From September 18 to 20, I paid my third visit to Tokyo. Unlike my previous two trips, I had much more time to take in the scenery and visit places I simply never had the time to see. Below are some of the highlights.

Cosmo Clock 21 in Yokohama, the Ferris wheel seen in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992).

Asahi Beer Hall and the Asahi Flame in Asakusa, Tokyo.

Nakamise Avenue in Asakusa. The shops along Nakamise Ave. contain more than a few kaiju-related items.

But if it's kaiju merchandise you seek, look no further than the Nakano Broadway Mall! You can go broke here before you know it!

The entrance to Sensoji in Asakusa. Photo by Akira Takarada.

The National Film Center's exhibit on actress Kyoko Kagawa in Kyobashi. Ms. Kagawa has starred in movies for Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, but to us monster geeks she's best known for her leading role in Mothra (1961). This exhibit runs from September 13 to December 25, 2011. A film retrospective runs from November 8 to December 25.

Surf's up! At the beach in Kamakura, Kanagawa.

Seeing Daibutsu (a.k.a. The Great Buddha) up close and personal in Kamakura.

With one of the many posters outside this restaurant in Shimo-Kitazawa. It has an old-school movie/TV series theme. Check it out!