Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Iwai Shunji Film Festival - Volume 8 (Dec 2011)

Volume 8 contains, as usual, a number of short videos:

- My little film festival: Tanaka Chie,  an 8-minute interview with a Japanese actress who's become a star in Taiwan, due to her appearance in Cape No. 7. Pretty light stuff. Two stars.

- Friends After 3.11 is a documentary by Iwai comprised of interviews regarding the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown disasters in Japan. This volume features a 15-minute interview with a nuclear scientist and a nuclear activist. I'm unsure if shorter cuts of these appears in the completed documentary or not. Interesting and informative, and a rare chance to see Iwai documentary material with English subtitles. Three stars.

- Messy Room - Iwai talk All About Lily Chou-Chou (AALLC) in 16-minute interview on the occasion of the film's 10th anniversary. Things of note:

  • There are still fans who add to the Lily Holic forum (the home of the original AALLC internet novel), continuing the story, in a sense.
  • Iwai discusses adding to the Lily story using a new narrator, named Pascal, who writes in a kind of fake Kansai dialect. This appears in AALLC: The Complete Edition (see below).
  • Iwai discusses a news story from the late 90s -- a young man who murdered his parents and planned to murder a pop idol he obsessed over -- as an influence on the creation of AALLC.
  • Iwai also mentions a book on Mark David Chapman, who murdered John Lennon, as another catalyst in creating the Lily story. The book is Let Me Take You Down by Jack Jones, and Iwai discusses its "cinematic" first chapter, which describes the week in Chapman's life before the killing, at length.
  • The first chapter of Let Me Take You Down also influenced Iwai's short film April Story, although Iwai twisted the influence by imagining good things in such a week, rather than bad. "I took things I thought would make a nice film and put my own personal spin to them... for me there's a link between them."
Overall some very interesting info on what started Iwai thinking about AALLC. Four stars.

- Novie noveau - new chapters in Iwai's online novels, Vampire and All About Lily Chou-Chou: The Complete Edition. The latter is not a sequel, at least in this chapter. It adds to the Lily story from within the chronology of the movie from different characters' points of view. I find the interface so EXTREMELY annoying I can hardly get through them. One sentence at a time pops up. A few seconds later, another sentence. I get what Iwai is going for-- to make reading them a kind of dreamy experience and which mimics, to a degree, reading posts on Internet forums, but it just feels like a gimmick. Please, format the stories in normal text! One star.

- Storyboard artist - a new chunk of storyboards from Iwai's portion of New York, I Love You, but actually reads more like a comic book. The best way to read is to click full screen, exit via hitting ESCAPE, and then use the forward and backward arrows on your keyboard to flip through them. Interestingly, the short film again references John Lennon's death when the main character (played in the film by Orlando Bloom) walks past the Lennon memorial in Central Park. Two stars.

- Music - three tracks: Ladybird by Iwai (solo piano), Moonlight by Debussy (solo piano, apparently performed by Iwai), and Saraband by Iwai. Okay, but not particularly memorable or essential. Two stars.

Overall, the Friends After 3.11 interviews and especially Iwai's interview re: AALLC are probably worth your 500¥. If the online novels were in an easier to read format, I would enjoy them much more.

Monday, January 9, 2012

New York, I Love You (2009)

New York, I Love You is a romance film comprised of short films by 11 directors. Shunji Iwai contributed the third film in the movie, a 7-minute segment he originally titled Camille & Camille.

The film stars Orlando Bloom as David Cooler (nice name), a sound engineer working on a film for a demanding Japanese filmmaker, Abara, who is never shown. Bloom talks on the phone with his agent, a woman named Camille (Christina Ricci), walks around NYC, stops in Central Park at Strawberry Fields (the John Lennon memorial), and tries to comply with the Abara's unusual requests.

The plot is pretty ridiculous. I don't mind whimsy, but whimsy still has to make sense, and Camille & Camille unfortunately doesn't. The two actors heroically act out what's often thinly thought-through dialogue. The film as a whole garnered mediocre reviews (Metacritic), a perennial criticism being that the stories weren't particularly related to New York, and Iwai's contribution is an unfortunate example of that. Aside from a reference to the Dakota apartments, there's almost nothing of New York in it. Ultimately it's neither terribly bad nor good-- just quick and forgettable.

Original storyboard, from Awaiff.com


  • Orlando is filmed walking down the street in the Upper West Side, down Columbus Ave. between W. 105th and W. 104th. 
  • A poster for the hit manga and anime Death Note, a dark and cerebral thriller, is in Orlando's apartment. 
  • A copy of This Means Nothing, an art book of NYC street art, is on his coffee table.
  • Iwai has stated that he drew on the death of John Lennon and a book about the murderer Mark David Chapman in both All About Lily Chou-Chou and April Story. (AWAIFF Vol. 8)
  • The anime film Orlando appears to be working on looks like Tales From Earthsea (2006) by Studio Ghibli.
  • "Lennon... is my God." Iwai stated in an interview that when he heard the news of Lennon's death in 1980, he was not very affected by it, and was in fact surprised that a man he considered a historical figure ("like Beethoven") had even still been alive. (AWAIFF Vol. 8)
  • Iwai published the storyboards to Camille & Camille online at Iwai Film Festival.
  • Orlando mis-pronounces Wikipedia, "WHY-ki-pedia". WTF?
  • There are two big differences between Awai's original storyboards (posted at Iwaiff.com) and the finished film. First, the film Cooler is editing has a character named Camille, and Cooler imagines the film Camille while talking to the real Camille over the phone. Second, the storyboard version end with the real Camille sending him a fax.