The 31st Tokyo International Film Festival kicked off Thursday with a notable dearth of Hollywood stars, namely the two who star in the opening movie.
Despite Lady Gaga’s professed love of Japan, the American singer didn’t show up as had been rumored to promote “A Star Is Born,” and neither did her co-star and the film’s director, Bradley Cooper.
The lack of high-profile Hollywood names who usually populate the red carpets of major film festivals, however, left more time and attention for Asian guests.
Despite the evening gowns, tuxedos and Mercedes-Benz limousines, a casual atmosphere prevailed at the three-hour ceremony. TIFF ambassador Mayu Matsuoka noted the event was taking place at Roppongi Hills, a venue “that’s usually a shopping area,” but this mall included a zombie horde, a nervous black-and-white cat, two sets of robots and Kumamoto Prefecture mascot Kumamon — though he was dressed to the nines.
The large Asian contingent was in part due to a particularly strong selection in the Crosscut Asia section, which this year focuses on films about music.
Indonesian director Garin Nugroho, who made one of those films, said he has been coming to TIFF since the early 1990s, making him a serious veteran of the festival. Another veteran, Hong Kong director Fruit Chan, is making his first appearance at TIFF in 17 years with the sex comedy “Three Husbands,” whose star, Chloe Maayan, towered over him in an elaborate mermaid-themed cocktail dress.
The most famous Western star on the red carpet was Ralph Fiennes, whose Rudolf Nureyev biopic, “The White Crow,” is showing in the Competition section. The section received 1,829 submissions from 109 countries and territories worldwide, a record number for the festival.
European cinema is particularly well represented in the World Focus section, which features new films by Louis Garrel, Olivier Assayas, Margarethe von Trotta and Paolo Sorrentino. Mexican provocateur Carlos Reygadas makes a return to TIFF with the film “Our Time,” and the Philippine enfant terrible Brillante Ma Mendoza is not only bringing a new movie — more precisely, a third of one, since it’s an omnibus — he is also the head of this year’s Competition jury.
The Japanese film contingent featured a strong female presence, with at least four filmmakers treading the red carpet and more than a dozen women representing “21st Century Girl,” an omnibus of short films in the Japanese Cinema Splash section. Local stars who attended the event Thursday included actors Issey Ogata, Goro Inagaki (making his debut on the red carpet), Shinobu Terajima, Kaho Minami (another Competition jury member) and Koji Yakusho, who is being honored with a retrospective of five of his most famous films.
Godzilla was in the house, as always, although this time the fire-breathing superstar was shilling for an animated version of himself in “Godzilla: The Planet Eater,” the festival’s closing film. The big guy didn’t talk much, or, at least, not as much as actress Natsuko Yokosawa, who couldn’t stop reminding everyone “I’m the lead actor” in the movie “My Train Diary.” She definitely had the best time of anyone there.