a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Tokyo Filmex 2007 – boxoffice.com blog #9

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It’s the last day or Filmex. It’s been quite a ride through a lot of cutting edge international cinema. And a couple of the big ones have been saved for the last day.

One o’clock and I’m walking through the packed foyer into the big cinema. Lines of festival volunteers in random voices call “irashaimase” – welcome – the classic greeting one gets everywhere in Japan, at the convenience store counter, in the restaurants, everywhere. Welcoming is built into the culture, and people seem to go out of their ways to accommodate guests. It’s no different at Filmex, where guests, press, and public are very well taken care of.

The movie I’m going to see is Michelange Quay’s Eat, For This is My Body. Filled with dreamy imagery, it’s the first feature by the Haitian-American director. Beautifully shot, it’s full of beautiful people (Sylvie Testud, from La Vie En Rose and a cast of Haitian unknowns), a mess of allegorical and symbolic images, and boy, is it slow. Quay, at the Q & A and later at a presentation on the Unknown Haitian Cinema, is an affable and smart cineaste. He’s quick on his feet, excited about presenting his film, excited about Japan, and manages to get the crowd a bit more enthusiastic about the overblown
symbolism at the heart of his film. But still, even in the arthouse or at the festival his
film, unfortunately doesn’t quite measure up.

But the closing film, Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine certainly does. Lee is a veteran Korean filmmaker, who recently returned from a stint as Minister of Culture and Tourism to create a tour-de-force. Unlike a lot of outré Korean oeuvre that has crossed the pond to the US, Secret Sunshine is a moving portrait of a woman dealing with the grief of her son’s murder. Jeon Do-yeon, who plays the main character, Shin-ae, rightfully won the Best Actress prize at Cannes this year for this role. It’s a smart, perfectly shot film, that in addition to Jeon’s all-out performance, has a lot of heart and soul and empathy for the human condition. Lee’s been a big presence at the film festival, heading the head of competition jury and being a regular recognizable face at many of the screenings.

Festival prizes are given (more on that, with the festival wrap up). The screenings are over. Now it’s time to party!

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Written by Nicholas Vroman

November 26, 2007 at 3:02 am

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