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TIFF opens with ‘The Social Network,’ offers peek at ‘Tron: Legacy’

"The Social Network"
“The Social Network”

TOKYO (TR) – An estimated 3,200 film fans gathered on Saturday in the Roppongi entertainment district of Tokyo for the opening night of the 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival, which will feature 15 films in its main competition.

Over 300 biz luminaries strode along the ceremonial “green carpet” — a symbol of the fest’s ecological theme — laid upon Keyakizaka-dori at the Roppongi Hills complex in Minato Ward as the assembled crowd snapped photos and sought autographs.

Kicking off the event was helmer David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” the Sony Pictures film that stars Jesse Eisenberg and tells story of Mark Zuckerberg’s founding of the immensely popular social-working site Facebook.

The first scene in the film required 99 takes, a fact that was not a disappointment to scripter Aaron Sorkin. “David Fincher is a perfectionist,” said the screen writer just prior to the screening, “and he created a great environment for the cast. As a writer, I couldn’t ask for anything more and I appreciate that kind of effort and care.”

Eisenberg joked that he prefers to use the Japanese social-networking site Mixi over Facebook. Fincher was unable to attend due to filming obligations in Europe for his next pic, a remake of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

TIFF’s week-long run will feature more than 200 films at theaters in the Roppongi area.

For the main competition, the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix and $50,000 will be sought by 15 films, five of which will be world premieres at TIFF. Among them are Diego Lerman’s “The Invisible Eye,” a love story set in Argentina in 1982, “Postcard” the final film by 98-year-old director Kaneto Shindo and “Sketches of Kaitan City,” helmer Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s adaptation of an unfinished work by novelist Yasushi Sato.

The jury president is director Neil Jordan, whose film “The Company of Wolves” screened at TIFF’s inaugural event in 1985.

Also featured on opening night was a 24-minute special presentation of Walt Disney’s “Tron: Legacy,” the 3D sci-fi sequel to the 1982 film “Tron” that stars Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde. Producer Sean Bailey said that he was very pleased with the film. “We have all been working on this a very long time,” said producer Sean Bailey, “and to bring something of this scale and this ambition to Tokyo for the world premier is a thrill for all of us.”

Similar to “Avatar” last year, interest in “Tron: Legacy,” which features a soundtrack by Daft Punk, was difficult to determine. TIFF organizers had mentioned previously that ticket availability was strictly limited yet the last of the four screenings had an attendance of less than a dozen people. The film opens worldwide on December 17.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan was forced to cancel his appearance at the last minute. Akihiro Ohata, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, who spoke on behalf of the Japanese Government, said that films will increasingly play a vital role in the expansion of the nation’s export of its cultural properties overseas.

“Films allow you to travel back in time,” the minister said. “Films teach us about the past. They also make us aware of current events and cause us to ponder the future. As an individual living in present times, there is a lot to learn from films, such as the direction we are heading.”

The 70th anniversary of the birth of Bruce Lee will be commemorated with the screening of such classics as “Enter the Dragon” and “Game of Death,” which will be a special version released in Japan in 1978. Similarly, the 100th anniversary of director Akira Kurosawa’s birthday will be celebrated with the showing of films that display his influence, including King Hu’s 1975 sword-fighting film “The Valiant Ones.”

This is the third consecutive year that the festival has included an environmental mandate. Renewable energy will be used for certain screening activities, Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles have been provided, films with themes related to environmental conservation will be screened and filmmakers and celebrities, including Eisenberg, Wilde and actresses Yu Yamada and Norika Fujiwara, walked over a green carpet composed of recycled materials during last night’s festivities.

The closing pic, slated for October 31, will be Ben Affleck’s “The Town,” the Warner Bros. bank-heist film set in Boston.