The 29th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) has announced the full lineup of films to be featured in the Japan Now Director in Focus: Shunji Iwai section. After his recent explorations into filmmaking in Hollywood and feature-length animation, Iwai returned this year with the much-talked-about A Bride for Rip Van Winkle. As he continues to move forward into the third decade of his career, this is a perfect opportunity to look back at Iwai’s prolific body of work.
Shunji Iwai’s unique style and youth-focused vision are known as the “Iwai Aesthetic.” From Love Letter (95), which put him on the world stage, through the enduringly acclaimed All About Lily Chou-Chou (01) and Hana and Alice (04), to his latest masterpiece, A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (16), Iwai’s films have continued to be in a class all their own, each a mesmerizing work of transcendent power, applauded across the globe by fans and critics alike.
Kohei Ando, TIFF Japan Now Programming advisor, commented, “Shunji Iwai is a rare director who renders fable-like tales of contemporary Japanese youth and paints memory, time, space and society with his distinctive visual style. Fireworks, Should We See it from the Side or the Bottom? was a monumental early work that brought him critical praise and a Directors Guild of Japan New Directors Award. His first feature-length film, Love Letter, a masterpiece that begins when a letter is delivered to the wrong person, it won many festival awards and continues to have a strong following among Asian and international fans. Swallowtail Butterfly is a groundbreaking work, the first to depict an era when the Japanese yen is the strongest currency in the world. Iwai’s English-language debut, Vampire, is a love story set against the world’s end. And as his latest film, A Bride for Rip Van Winkle, is a sumptuous hide-and-seek story that evokes Shuji Terayama’s poetic style. This year’s director focus takes us into the mesmerizing, unforgettable world of Shunji Iwai.”
The line up is as follows:
A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (2016/ Japan)
Director/Screenplay/Original Story: Shunji Iwai
Cast: Haru Kuroki, Go Ayano, Cocco, Hideko Hara, Go Jibiki, Lily
Japanese Gone with the Wind, this Shunji Iwai’s long awaited return to live action filmmaking in Japan. It stars Silver Bear Award winner, Haru Kuroki.
Love Letter (1995/ Japan)
Director/Screenplay: Shunji Iwai
Cast: Miho Nakayama, Etsushi Toyokawa, Miki Sakai, Takashi Kashiwabara, Bunjaku Han
Two years after her fiancé’s death, Hiroko Watanabe tries to relieve her grief by mailing him a letter. It is delivered to a young woman in his hometown who has her fiancé’s name, Itsuki Fujii
Swallowtail Butterfly (1996/ Japan)
Director: Shunji Iwai
Cast: Hiroshi Mikami, Chara, Ayumi Ito, Yosuke Eguchi, Andy Hui, Atsuro Watabe, Tomoko Yamaguchi
This is a story about foreign “Yen Thieves” who believe the Japanese yen will help their dreams come true. So they come to the “Yen Town” to fulfill their dreams.
VAMPIRE (2011/ USA=Canada)
Cast: Kevin Zeegers, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Yu Aoi, Adelaide Clemens
He meets a woman who calls herself Jellyfish. Although strangers to each other, they plan to die together. Jellyfish wants to have the best day before she dies and he suggests a special method for a peaceful death – by drawing blood. The longest day begins for this man, Simon Williams. Shunji Iwai’s care and attention is prevalent from screenplay, direction, music, cinematography and editing.
Fireworks, Should We See it from the Side or the Bottom? (1993/ Japan)
Cast: Yuta Yamasaki, Megumi Okina, Takayuki Handa, Randy Heavens, Kenji Kohashi, Kenji Sakuragi, Kuniko Asagi
Primary school pupils, Norimichi, Yusuke and Junichi wonder if fireworks look round or flat from the side, and they plan to go to a light house on fireworks night to find out.
The 29th TIFF will take place October 25 – November 3, 2016 at Roppongi Hills, EX Theater Roppongi and other theaters in Tokyo. For more information please click here.