Kiyoshi Kurosawa won the best director prize in the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section on Sunday, but he also deserves a prize from the Japanese film industry for single-handedly turning its presence at the world’s most prestigious film festival from a vague embarrassment to a cause for celebration — at least among the Japanese media.
Kurosawa’s supernatural drama “Kishibe no Tabi” (“Journey to the Shore”) — about a dead man who haunts his still-grieving wife — was not the only local film to win plaudits. In the competition section, Hirokazu Koreeda’s family drama “Umimachi Diary” (“Our Little Sister”) got glowing reviews, but faded into the pack as the week progressed and left the festival with no awards.
Meanwhile, “An,” directed by Cannes regular Naomi Kawase, received reviews ranging from tepid to savage. (One writer demanded that the festival stop inviting her films.)
Finally, perennial bad bad boy Takashi Miike was applauded for appearing in geisha drag in a video message to the audience before “Gokudo Daisenso” (“Yakuza Apocalypse”), a film that David Rooney from “The Hollywood Reporter” called “numbingly idiotic.”
The Japanese film industry was also out in force at Cannes for the concurrent film market, the world’s largest. With the android greeter Asuna and the famous (in Japan) bear mascot Kumamon present, the Japan Pavilion hosted a variety of seminars and events designed to get foreign buyers and producers excited about made-in-Japan films. But minus Kurosawa’s win — that is, with a 0-4 score for the home team — their pitch may have rung a little hollow.