Special screenings and other spinoffs at TIFF

by Giovanni Fazio

Special To The Japan Times

The Special Screenings section at Tokyo International Film Festival is largely made up of films that will soon be opening in Japan anyway, but there are still a few hot tickets this year. With “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away,” TIFF has scored the world premiere of this 3-D spectacle featuring the much-loved circus troupe, produced by James Cameron, and written/directed by Andrew Adamson of “Shrek” fame.

In the World Cinema section, see my recommendations on page 19, but Monty Python fans (I know you’re out there) should also quickly grab a ticket for “A Liar’s Autobiography — The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman.” The film is an over-the-top fake biography of the late comedian featuring — with trademark irreverence — “five Pythons, including the dead one!” Different animators tackle each chapter of the book.

Also in the section is Chilean director Dominga Sotomayor’s “Thursday Till Sunday,” which took a Tiger Prize at Rotterdam this year and certainly looks promising: a beautifully shot, laconic road movie in which a pair of children on vacation watch their parents’ marriage unravel. The always infuriating Harmony Korine (“Gummo”) is back with “Spring Breakers,” which looks like a trashier, nastier version of a “National Lampoon” flick, starring Selena Gomez and James Franco.

The Film Panorama of Asia-Middle-East section is heavy on Korean and Japanese stuff, but also features movies from as far afield as Kazakhstan (“Student”) and Sri Lanka (“Him, Here After”). There’s a Taiwanese film, “The Soul of Bread,” which boasts upcoming star Michelle Chen and the unfortunate tagline, “Shut up and eat some bread!” The requisite Bollywood entry is “Agneepath,” an action-packed revenge flick (and a remake of a 1990 hit) starring Mr. Six Pack himself, Hrithik Roshan.

The Indonesian Express section is a big question mark, but there are a half-dozen films on offer, including “The Blindfold,” a new one from Garin Nugroho, who won an award from the Young Cinema jury headed by Roger Corman back at the 1994 TIFF in Kyoto. Dealing with a young girl who is kidnapped by Islamic radicals, Nugroho is clearly pushing the limits of expression in his country, and received a visit from the head of counter-terrorism after making this.

Getting deeper into the schedule, we find Corman’s Way, a tribute to jury head Roger Corman that will feature an all-night screening of three films he directed or produced, including grindhouse classic “Monster: Humanoids from the Deep.” Another all-night trio looks at the work of prolific Hong Kong producer Raymond Chow, and includes the 1985 Jackie Chan hit “Police Story,” which — cinephiles take note — features a beautiful 20-year-old newcomer named Maggie Cheung.

The Natural TIFF section presents eight documentaries with environmental themes, with “Trashed” — narrated by Jeremy Irons — being an eye-opening indictment of our throwaway culture.

TIFF in Nihonbashi is a rather vague section that mixes classic films associated with that district of Tokyo, such as Kon Ichikawa’s geisha weepie “Bridge of Japan,” to a bunch of docs that have no connection whatsoever, other than exploring “different ways of being Japanese.” Vive la difference.