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Tokyo International Film Festival 2011

The festival features a retrospective of work by actress Kyoko Kagawa, now 79.

"Back in May, the rumor among cinephiles in the Japanese media was that the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) wouldn't happen this year," recalls Kaori Shoji in the Japan Times. "TIFF programming director Nobushige Toshima maintains, though, that scrapping the event was never on the cards. 'A mere week after the [March 11 earthquake and tsunami], my staff and I went to the Hong Kong Film Festival,' Toshima says, 'and we were surprised and touched that so many people expressed such concern for Japan and even started a spontaneous fundraiser for [the Tohoku region]. So we set up a fundraising booth of our own and, in the process, discovered a trite but fundamental truth — movies do bring people together.'"

The festival's opened today and runs through October 30, and Mark Schilling notes that it's a fine opportunity for English-speakers to catch up with new Japanese films: "Eleven of the 23 films in the Special Screenings section devoted to upcoming releases are Japanese, as are eight of nine in the Japanese Eyes section that showcases independent titles….  There is also a scattering of local films in the Competition, Natural TIFF and other sections, plus tributes to Golden Age star Kyoko Kagawa and iconoclastic director Juzo Itami. All Japanese films will have English subs. Given the nearly 400 Japanese films released annually, this is only a sampling, but TIFF will present a wide range of what is being made here, from TV network-produced crowd-pleasers to zero-budget passion projects from an indie sector that has retained its vitality, despite a drying up of venues and funding."

Yuhei Wada, also in the Japan Times, takes a brief look at the tribute to Juzo Itami, while Time Out Tokyo includes an interview with Kyoko Kagawa, now 79, in its TIFF package. Of all the films she's performed in, we learn that the "one that stands out most for me is A Story from Chikamatsu," aka The Crucified Lovers (1954, image at the top). "Mizoguchi wouldn't give us much direction on set: when we arrived he would just say, 'Okay, go ahead, do it' and that was it. It would be test after test after test until we finally got it right, so that was very tough. But I do feel that, by doing this, Mizoguchi taught me the basics of what acting actually is. Ozu was quite the opposite: he was very meticulous and detailed in his direction. He had his camera at a low angle on set and he would direct the actors and actresses to sit in very specific places. He had a very different style. As for Kurosawa, he was a lot like Mizoguchi…. [I]n High and Low, I played a parent whose child was kidnapped, and my husband was played by Toshiro Mifune. I would sit there in silence, reacting to what other people said: if Mifune said something, I would have to act off that; if my child said something, I would have to act off that. I was in a constant state of tension, just thinking, 'I have to react, I have to react.' And the first person who taught me that was Mizoguchi. 'Are you acting off each other?' he would often say. 'Reaction, reaction!' When I appeared in Kurosawa's films, I would keep reminding myself the same thing — so I think Mizoguchi left the most lasting impression on me."

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Lovely to hear Kagawa’s thoughts on those directors.
Hey, Tokyo can’t be Tiff because Toronto’s already Tiff. I know because I been there and ate in their cafe. Yes, the food was horrible, they have no concept of pizza or iced tea, but never the less, the building is intact. Says Tiff. I have brochures. Can’t we call Tokyo Godzilla Land and therefore it can be Giff?

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