a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Tokyo Filmex 2007 – boxoffice.com blog #8

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And now a word from out sponsors.

There are a few films at film festivals that everyone sees. Largely put up with, sponsor ads that precede every screening are ubiquitous at most film festivals. The amusing commercial on day one of the festival often becomes by day seven a dreaded and obnoxious test of audience mettle. Filmex runs the same three ads in front of every film screened. Here are some quick reviews.

Keirin Ringring. This obnoxious minute and a half promotes the Ringring efforts of the Japanese Keirin Association. What? Let me explain. Keirin is a bicycle race that has become a popular betting sport in Japan. Competitors follow a pacer for one or two laps (it’s up to the pacer) jockeying for position. As soon as the pacer leaves the tracks it’s sprint time to the finish line. Ringring is the do-good promotion of the Keirin Association – working with kids, the elderly and the blind.

The commercial quick cuts between kids on bikes and trikes, old people, a seeing-eye dog, a few happy workers, all overlaid with floating bike wheel graphics and a few katakana phrases. It’s frenetic, doesn’t make a whole lot of visual sense and has an incredibly shrill soundtrack. It makes me shudder whenever I see the first images of happy kids.

Meiji Probio Yogurt LG 21. A high angle shot of Beat Takeshi, poker-faced. Cut to Beat looking up at an oversized poster of himself. The music goes a little whacky. A voice over kicks in. Beat does a somewhat lame kung fu kick. Cut to Beat tapping his stomach and grinning. Cut to the money shot, a close-up of a spoon dipping into yoghurt. And out with the high angle shot of Beat, this time looking at the camera with a little smile. Hmm. It looks OK, It’s got Beat, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it’s all about. And what is Probio Yogurt LG21 anyway?

Air France. When I asked my girlfriend, “What about that stupid Air France commercial?” She said, “What Air France commercial?” An ad’s job is to get the brand stuck in a person’s brain. This one obviously fails. A beautiful lake in the country. A beautiful woman lounges on a dock. A frog. A dragonfly. More lounging. A pan across the landscape. It looks professional, totally insipid, and uninspired. The worst of advertising “art.”

And what about the real movies today? Well, there was The Bride from Hades, a 1968 Ugetsu style story from Yamamoto Satsuo, that had a huge influence (and still does) on Japanese horror movies. It still looks great after all these years. And then there was Jia Zhang-ke’s Dong, a strange documentary on art-making, work, and the human condition. Intriguing, difficult, the images are sticking with me, though I’m still perplexed by the whole thing. And unfortunately I missed the special session Angela Mao Ying (Lady Kung Fu). She played Bruce Lee’s younger sister in Enter the Dragon, and had a long career as an action star. She’s here with a Shaw brother’s classic, Hapkido. Word up she was gracious, funny, and still very much a star.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

November 25, 2007 at 3:01 am

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