Saturday, March 27, 2010

Yubari Final and other Stuff

Wanted to do a more detailed blog on my time at Yubari - as per the last entry - but since getting home from Hokkaido I've hit the ground running and been bogged down with work. So, that kind of entry is no longer possible. But the work I've been busy with is good. No complaints.

One of these jobs - and one I just completed today - was doing subtitles for an upcoming film in Japan called "Natural Woman 2010." It was a fun gig. I enjoyed the performances of the two lead women, actresses Ayano and Yukari Shiomi.

Not counting my own films, this is my third subtitling job. (To date, I've done the indie kaiju film "G" and "Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl.") I like subtitling and find it stimulating coming up with equivalent English phrases and expressions that will allow non-Japanese speaking people the opportunity to join in on Japanese cinema. It also offers me a terrific outlet in which to express my understanding of Japanese culture and to do so in the medium of film, which is my art form of choice. I've got an offer now to sub a major release in Japan and will announce that here if I secure the job. Should find out over the next month. Looking good though.

I also had a great gig last Saturday night at Theater N in Shibuya, where they were screening a remasted HD print of DAWN OF THE DEAD, my all-time favorite movie. When I get into my Yubari recap later on in this blog, I'll write about a similar job I did of hosting a DAWN show there, which is what led to the screening in Shibuya last weekend.

Back in the early 1980s I made several trips to the Monroeville Mall, the location for much of DAWN OF THE DEAD. Although the Mall still stands today, almost every store seen in the film has shut down. I took several rolls of film back then when it was still very similar to how it looked during shooting. For my talk show, I ran through a slide presentation of the best of these shots, comparing them to frames from the film, and related stories of being at the mall, what the place is like, and my experience of working with director George Romero eleven years ago on the Biohazard II TV commercial.

One of the highlights of the Theater N show was when I pulled out an actual piece of Mall marble I picked up from the loading dock of the mall 25 years ago. The audience gasped, surprised to see such an insane item as this. With it held firmly in both hands, I marched the small slab through the center isle of the theater, inviting people in the audience to touch it. It was a funny moment, and terrific for me to see so many people with wide smiles plastered across their faces as they reached out to give my marble a few hard rubs.

One more thing about this night: For sale in the theater were a bunch of DAWN t-shirts. Some were cool, others were whatever... But there was one that simply blew my mind! It didn't even say DAWN OF THE DEAD anywhere on it. I mean, leave it to the Japanese to come up with as insane an 'otaku' items as this. What I'm talking about is that there was a shirt with the words "Bach's Arco Pitcairn" printed on the back! 

You don't get it? OK... Let me explain:

There's a scene in DAWN where a zombie with a baseball glove sits down in front of Fran, the female lead, and the two stare at each other through a pane of glass. Well, some nut heads in Japan went to the trouble of making an exact copy of the shirt the zombie was wearing! Thus, the words, "Bach's Arco Pitcairn." Man... What could I do other than get one for myself! I suppose this means that I still have some otaku left in me after all. It's now my favorite shirt of all-time and space!

Well, I do want to wrap up my Yubari report. Guess I'll present it in what bits stand out in my mind...a whirlwind blur in my mind.

First and foremost was the screening of my movie, IT'S ALL GOOD, my main reason for traveling up to the cold wastelands of Hokkaido. It was shown the morning of the first full day of the festival. There were three other films on the bill, with mine up first.  The directors from the other films and I, along with Yoshihiro Nishimura, who worked on all three films, gathered off stage where we got mentally ready for the screenings.

My favorite moment came when they ran the introductory video that was shown before each (and every) screening at Yubari. Among them was a commercial for Yubari ski resorts and featured a bit with four children standing in a line rocking side to side, their heads poking out from behind the one in front. It is a hysterically charming commercial. As it played for the audience the four of us, who had gathered in a circle off in a dark space to the right side of the screen, starting swaying our bodies around like the kids in the video. We were all giggling hard when they called us on stage.

It's important to watch your film with an audience. It allows you to see things with fresh eyes. I'm happy to report that, other than the fact that the film was still missing some of its CG work, I couldn't find much to fault in it. That is, it had reached the point of being as good as it was going to get.

After the screening, I took the stage to talk about the film. I enjoy this kind of thing. I rattled off some production stories and talked about the film's inspirations. My friend and writing partner Mie was hosting the show. As my actors couldn't join me at Yubari, having Mie there was the next best thing.
I got a lot of great comments after the screening (and throughout the show). My favorite was from someone who said that every Japanese should see my film. I'm for that!

Later that night I met up with my friends: directors Shusuke Kaneko and Takeshi Yagi, writers Jiro Kaneko, actor Takashi Nishina and  and "Bakamono" producer Okimoto. We all went to an Izakaya to pig out.  At the table next to us was the Nishimura / Iguchi clan and across from them was the Shun Oguri / Mata Yamamoto group. I was able to catch up with Ryohei Suzuki, one of the starts of Oguri's film, and introduced him to Nishimura and Kaneko. Lots of drinking, talking about film, production stories, etc etc. All in all, a really fun night.

The next day I spent in and out of film screenings, sitting around talking to people and / or taking quiet walks through the Yubari snow. It's an interesting town. It used to have money, but that has dried up along with the young population. Most of the people there seem on average 60 years old.

Despite it being the middle of winter and cold as all hell, Yubari holds an outdoor barbeque for the festival. The specialty this year was deer. Ugh... Sure... I'll eat deer. I eat cow, so why not deer?

One of the people I spent a lot of time with at the show was Nakoshi, who if you don't know, I'm not even going to bother explaining. She's beyond explanation. I simultaneously loathe her and love her. I'm the first to admit that being around her is a dangerous endeavor. She is prone to causing people physical pain if she so decides. If you've ever seen any of Nishimura's films, you've seen Nakoshi. She's in "Tokyo Gore Police" as one of the exotic, mutant dancers, and is the dethroned wrist cut champion in "Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl."

At the barbecue Nakoshi and I went around to the many outdoor hotplates, gathering up food and then joined my friends where we ate huddled around an outdoor stove. My only complaint here is that there weren't enough hotplates and the food would be gone about 3 seconds after it was done. So, I can't really say I filled up on Bambi meat like I would like to say.

That night was the midnight screening of DAWN OF THE DEAD. It featured a dubbed version of the film in Japanese, which I had never seen before. I, along with Egia Hi-Ho writer Yoshida, hosted the show.

First off, I have to admit it: I drank a lot beforehand. But, in my defense, I think everyone at the show was drinking heavily. And since I was drinking throughout the whole show, it was one of those drunken moments where you're just sort of maintaining a buzz and not wasted.

With that said, OK, yeah, I admit it, I was drunk when I took the stage with Yoshida. In fact, before the screening, I was confronting members of the audience, going up to them as they took their seats asking, "Hey, have you seen DAWN OF THE DEAD?" If they answered "Yes" I would "allow" them to stay. If they dared utter "No," they were struck bewildered by me yelling, "Get the hell out of here!" It was all done in jest, of course.

As that blasted promotion video of the Yubari ski resort was playing before DAWN, I saw this as my chance to have a little fun. When the 4 children in the ski video were standing in a row, swaying back and forth, I ran out on stage and, with the screen behind me, acted as if I was in the film with them. The audience roared with approving laughter as I rocked from side to side. I think that by this point everyone was sick of seeing that video.

Like I was to do later on in Shibuya, I projected photos I had taken at the mall and told stories about the DAWN location. I was so full of enthusiasm and energy that I managed to fall off the stage when I ran up to point out something on the screen. Kind of messed up my right leg...

The viewing of the film, probably my 240th time (I stopped counting at 210) was great. And my date for the show was Nakoshi.  It was her first time to see the film. I love seeing DAWN with first timers, especially cute girls. And as odd as Nakoshi is, she always has some interesting thing to say later on.

The next morning was the obligatory guest photo session. In a light snowfall, we were whisked by bus to a wide, open area where we took spots along a long platform. In front of us were dozens and dozens of reporters snapping our photos. It would have been more fun if it weren't so blasted cold!

That night was the closing party of the festival in the hall of one of the hotels. Lots of food and lots of people to talk to. Again, I hung out with the Kaneko clan and Nakoshi.

Oh, let me illustrate the kind of person Nakoshi is. There was a film she starred in playing in this year's competition, one I went to see that day. It was kind of a mixed bag. Nakoshi is good, but some of the direction was muddled, the shooting visionless, and the audio awful. I only mentioned this to her since she asked for my honest opinion and since she said she hated the film anyway. After telling her what I thought, she told me to hold on. A moment later she returned with the director, a young guy probably not more than 23. Nakoshi said, "Norman, tell him all the film's bad points like you just told me." Nakoshi is the type that likes to put people in compromised, embarrassing positions.

After the party, a group of us went across the street to an Izakaya. This was probably the most enjoyable moment of the whole show. Everyone was drinking, talking film and just having a good time in general. Having had enough of Nakoshi, I sat with Yui, who stars in director Iguchi's "Robo Geisha"'s spinoff. I did bring Nakoshi along as Nishimura had returned to Tokyo. Unfortunately, she wasn't on best behavior and tore some chest hair off of Shusuke Kaneko and shoved a fork up another guy's nose.

Yagi got an idea to shoot a film, so we all went out into the cold where he directed a silent flick about a gang that attacks the wife of one of the guys in our group. I got knocked down into the snow when her husband came to rescue her. Freaking cold! But, ah, I love snow! Wish we had just a little more in Tokyo. I should also mention that my buddy Benny was there too. He's a great guy and always turns up in Nishimura films.

The following day the festival ended with a screening of Shusuke Kaneko's upcoming film "Bakamono." I guess the English title would be "The Idiots". It's about a young man who meets a slightly older woman and how she corrupts him before leaving him. He then turns to heavy drinking and destroys all the relationships in his life. From there comes the rebuilding process, until he meets her again ten years later where it seems likely that it might start all over again.

This was my second time to see the film. It's a really great movie, kind of a throwback to Japanese films of the 60s and 70s, and Kaneko tells the tale well. I saw the film at a staff screening and loved it so much I recommended it to the Yubari people. They liked it too and included it in the show. As I thought, there wasn't a dry eye in the house when the film finished. The screening was followed by the farewell party where we have to listen to several boring speeches and are served food made by the locals. At least the beer was free...

From there came the odious task of returning to Tokyo. It's a two hours bus ride to Chitose Airport, and then the flight back. At least this time we weren't grounded for hours and hours. After getting back to Tokyo, Kaneko and I rode the trains back into Setagaya, talking about the festival and what's next on our agendas.

Well, all in all, another successful screening of another film of mine. After returning home I received the viewer feedback reports and my film averaged 4 out of 5 stars. I supposed that's a testament to my drive and ability. Once I get the film's final footage and finish it properly, I plan to show it at more festivals around the word.

But then, I also have some new films I'm working on. Including one with Nakoshi... I take my life in my hands...

1 comment:

  1. That shot of the 'Dawn' Clock makes my heart stop. It has so much resonance for me - I used to watch 'Dawn' when I was off school, and the streets were dead, capped by an indifferent, grey sky. I'd love to get a look at some of those other shots of Monroeville Mall. You should watermark them. I doubt many people had the prescience to document the place as it was.