Film | Wide Angle

Tokyo International Film Festival to celebrate homegrown talent

by Alyssa I. Smith

Staff Writer

The annual Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) unveiled the full lineup of 170 films from around the world for its 32nd edition Sept. 26. While tickets to screenings of films that are racking up Oscar buzz — like Taika Waititi’s dark comedy “Jojo Rabbit” and Martin Scorsese’s real-life mob drama “The Irishman” — will be snapped up in no time, the nine-day festival is also setting its sights on taking a deeper look at film greats much closer to home.

Last year’s opening film, “A Star is Born,” banked on the star power of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper to bring Hollywood glamour to the event (unfortunately both the star and director were no-shows on the TIFF red carpet), but when the festivities kick off Oct. 28, Japan will see the return of a very familiar face with the premiere of “Tora-san, Wish You Were Here.”

The film is the 50th installment of the comedy film series, “Otoko wa Tsurai Yo” (“It’s Tough Being a Man”), which chronicles the wanderings and unsuccessful romantic pursuits of Torajiro Kuruma (aka Tora-san), a traveling salesman who also yearns to return home to his family in Tokyo’s Shibamata neighborhood.

Helmed by director Yoji Yamada since its inception, the franchise has been a staple of Japanese cinema since its launch in 1969. Although Kiyoshi Atsumi, who played the iconic hero, passed away a year after the release of the 48th film in 1995, thanks to the magic of remastering old prints Atsumi’s character will have a distinct presence in “Tora-san, Wish You Were Here.”

Another giant of Japanese film to be celebrated at this year’s TIFF is director Nobuhiko Obayashi. The festival has named him Director in Focus in the Japan Now section and will hold a retrospective of his work. Despite receiving a lung cancer diagnosis in 2017, the director has continued to work and his newest film, “Labyrinth of Cinema,” will also be shown at TIFF. Known for his experimental and distinctive style — as exhibited in three of his better-known titles, “I Are You, You Am Me” (1982), “The Little Girl Who Conquered Time” (1983) and “Lonely Heart” (1985), which comprise the Onomichi Trilogy — Obayashi has had a varied career that includes directing Japanese idol-pop group AKB48’s 64-minute-long music video, “So Long!” (2013).

With Mamoru Hosoda’s “Mirai” nabbing an Academy Award nomination for best animated feature, there is little surprise that TIFF will have a section dedicated to the evolution of Japanese animation and effects. Among the selected titles are Katsuhiro Otomo’s classic, “Akira” (1988), and “Weathering With You” (2019), Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up to his blockbuster 2016 hit, “Your Name.” For a step back to the roots of special effects, TIFF has dug into the archives of Japanese hit superhero series “Ultraman” to screen four films in 4K resolution and hold an event with actors from the “Ultraman” and “Ultra Q” series.

Tokyo International Film Festival takes place from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5. For more information, visit 2019.tiff-jp.net/en.

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