Friday, September 20, 2013

Japanese Film Festival 2013: The Great Passage / 舟を編む

2013 is the 10th year the Japanese Film Festival has been held in Malaysia- partially sponsored for the 2nd time in a row, if I'm not mistaken, by Mitsubishi Corporation- I can't help but wonder if the reason for this is that Mitsubishi's top man here is currently president of JACTIM (Japanese Chamber of Trade and Industry Malaysia). Now, to turn the spotlight away from the former zaibatsu's charitable advertising and to yours truly, this year marks the 10th time I've attended the Film Festival- it's now a minor tradition for me to attend and collect the film program- which has me feeling rather old now. Oh well.

Now for a brief overview of the one film I caught- Fune wo Amu (The Great Passage).I didn't realize at first, but TGP has an impressive name list to it, featuring big names like Matsuda Ryuuhei (Honjou Ren from 'Nana'!), Miyazaki Aoi (...coincidentally, Komatsu Nana from 'Nana'), and the Johnny Depp of the East (but with more amazing hairdos), Odagiri Joe, in a relatively bitsy role.

I gushed about the film in a random non-descriptive text message, and was then asked if the film was 'worth watching', or if it was the 'sleepy type'- and I immediately realized that TGP might not be the kind of show for everyone (though I honestly have no idea what could possibly fit that billing). TGP mainly focuses on the socially awkward Majime Mitsuya (Matsuda)- how he finds his calling by being pulled into a dictionary making project, making friends and finding love along the way. Dictionary making, if you didn't know already (I never thought of it, really), can take forever- and just like the team working on 'The Great Passage', which happens to be the title of the fictional dictionary Majime and co. are producing, TGP has a slow but steadily progressive pace.

The dictionary project took more than 10 years for the small team to complete. Along the way, Majime managed to get married to Miyazaki Aoi, who, interestingly enough, actually looked rather plain in the beginning- which in a roundabout way somehow increased her appeal to my eyes, as a shockingly normal looking leading lady, and not some ridiculously beautiful supermodel trophy wife (like how Ueto Aya occasionally looks- apologies to both), which would, I think, look out of place in this setting. That being said, Miyazaki's character Kaguya was amazing in how she stayed with Majime throughout without complain- with him being so obsessed with his work, leaving her alone for ages. Without even the emotional shackles to marriage otherwise known as offspring, she could have ditched him and looked for someone with more time for her- but she made him dinner and waited for him every night without fail.

There is quite an emotional rush at the end when the team finally finishes the dictionary, after years of work and setbacks- and I really felt it as well- though I believe I am justified in saying that some of the audience who fell asleep halfway through didn't deserve the gratification. To exaggerate a bit, I felt guilty for stepping out for a toilet break- for which I had a hard time choosing when to make my exit.

I am now obligated to list down the awards TGP has garnered so far. Drum roll please.
1) The Most Patient Wife in Film award to Miyazaki Aoi
2) Normal-looking yet Gorgeous Leading Lady award to Miyazaki Aoi
3) Most Adorable Fat Feline award to an uncredited ginger cat
4) Making Dictionary Writing Suspenseful award to the writer and director
5) The Taming of Odagiri Joe's Hair award to the makeup team
No prizes for the winners, I'm afraid, though they are welcome to drop by for a spot of tea. Now I suppose you could consider this a major spoiler, if you like, but here goes. What happens after you finish writing a dictionary? Wouldn't you be out of a job? Not really. Apparently all that happens is that you get working on a revised edition. Looks like another long and lonely decade or so for Princess Kaguya (head to google if you didn't get that reference), though I suppose that Majime will be able to work at a slower pace and have more time to actually, well, do what married people usually do.

Final notes:
Ticket prices for subsidized movies went up from RM5 to RM6. Still pretty cheap compared to regular priced movies, but I wish I could know the reason behind it.

Other interesting films that I would have liked to watch but was too lazy to include "Ken & Mary (ケンとメリー雨上がりの夜空に)", which was actually shot in Malaysia; the oddly titled "The Chef of South Polar (南極料理人)", about a Japanese chef assigned to a observation station in the South Pole; "The Kirishima Thing (桐島、部活やめるってよ)", to see some high school girls on the big screen (just kidding, please don't sick the cops on me)

This year's list of films gave the most screenings to "Detective Conan: Private Eye in the Distant Sea (名探偵コナン絶海の探偵)" (tickets sold at full price), for some reason. I can't help but wonder why. The movie was made in cooperation with Japan's Self Defense Force, which is a big customer of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries... could that be the reason? Then again MHI doesn't have much of a presence in Malaysia. Or maybe the people in Mitsubishi Corp think Malaysians love Detective Conan.

I'd have been much happier if they'd decided to show Studio Ghibli's "Kaze Tachinu (風立ちぬ)", though. Oh well. Next year, perhaps?

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