Friday, July 10, 2015

Before the the reviews and the text- a look at Wednesday at NYAFF including WOLVES PIGS AND MEN, my interview with Sabu and the glorious CHASUKE'S JOURNEY

This is a quick report on the final night at the Walter Reade for the New York Asian Film Festival for this year. I’m going to be doing long pieces related to both films I saw plus when I get a chance to transcribe it my interview with Sabu

To say that the day was a bit bizarre for me was an understatement. I arrived at the Walter Reade for an early show and talked to Earl who was volunteering for the 730pm CHASUKE’S JOURNEY but was put to work for the 530pm WOLVES PIGS AND MEN. I know he had been bouncing around at the festival but I kept missing him. Several people greeted him warmly since they all loved his smile and his laugh. He has a way with the women- no really the women love him.

I spoke briefly with Rufus about the move to SVA . He said everyone was nervous since it’s the first time they are flying solo ina while. They were hoping it would all go well (the split is due to theater availability- the Walter Reade wasn’t available for as long as they want to do the festival). I asked about the split from the Japan Society and they said it was a mutual thing. Both festival were heading in differing directions. He said next year they are hoping not to have any overlap.

There was much discussion before the first film with a couple of people which was really cool since I got a handle on what other people were thinking of the films.

The first film of the day was WOLVES PIGS AND MEN from Kinji Fukasaku and starring Ken Takakura. It’s a film that is very much of the 1960’s, a kind of bleak familial gangster film with musical numbers (as in musicals) and a cool jazz score. It’s a great looking wide screen film done in a style that no one does any more with a mix of weird camera angles, hand held and traditional camera shots. It’s a very interesting film to see, I’m not sure if I like it- even allowing that I split watching the film between the theater and a DVD at home. I have a great deal to say and a review is coming.

I left WOLVES in the middle to dash across the street to interview the director Sabu. I was doing a round table interview or thought I was but it ended up being a tag team with Nobu Hosoki of Yahoo Japan.

The interview was one of the stranger things I’ve ever done. I prepared for a typical round table, two or three good questions with a couple of weaker in case films only to be told there was going to be two of us which meant I had to essentially prepare for a regular interview on short notice. I was hampered since there was no way to see the film until after the interview so I was limited in what I could ask the director. Nobu was able to read some Japanese interviews and was much more specific while I had to talk in generalities. I was also limited in that I couldn’t be specific in questions about his older films since most of you, my readers, sadly don’t know his films.

I’m hoping to post the interview soon but in going over it I found it interesting that most of the questions I asked would have been asked had I seen the film since the tropes I questioned are in wonderful effect in the new film CHASUKES JOURNEY.

I asked why do all his films have chase scenes and he replied that he’s used them so much he feels they are expected (Much of the first third of CHASUKE'S JOURNEY is a chase of sorts).

Why does he always return to the use of Yakuza characters? He said because they are a short hand for evil. (the angel Chasuke’s human life was as a Yakuza and there are several Yakuza characters.)

I asked does the spirituality and philosophical of his films reflect his outlook on life. He said yes that his films are the way he sees life. He further stated in the post film Q&A that CHASUKE’S premise that heavenly scribes are writing everyone’s life is the way he feels since the twists and turns and the breaks he’s had could only be written by a heavenly screenwriter.

(I’m going to post the whole interview once I double check the sound level and see if it can be transcribed. There were four of us at the table talking at different sound levels plus the rumble of the air conditioning was rough.)

We broke out of the interview close to time and I bolted across the street back to the Walter Reade. Thankfully Alec was saving me a seat or else I don’t know where I would have ended up sitting.

I’m not going to write up CHASUKE’S JOURNEY now. The story of an angel who comes to earth to save a girl destined to die is now one of my all-time favorite films. A celebration of life and of the movies it twists and turns in ways that would leave you screaming at the screen in any other film as being clichĂ© and obvious but here they are perfect. I knew what the end would be at the start and I still cried at the end because Sabu got it all dead nuts perfect.

How good is the film? Alec was seriously considering stuffing the audience award box with extra slips.

As I said no long review now- but know one is coming- I have a great deal to say about the film.

After the film there was a Q&A. Its was good, though atypical of most NYAFF Q&A’s some of the audience questions several indicated either the audience members weren’t paying attention or wanted the film’s “meanings” spelled out and handed to them. (I can’t explain the questions without wrecking the film)

The Q&A done I headed home. The last film of the night was VIOLATOR, which I saw (and hated).

For now that’s the end of NYAFF at Lincoln Center. Now its on to SVA for Friday and Saturday.

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