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Tokyo Filmex opens with ‘Uncle Boonmee’

'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives'
“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”

TOKYO (TR) – Billing itself as a festival that seeks out the endless creativity and possibilities of cinema, the week-long Tokyo Filmex opened on Saturday in Chuo Ward.

Hundreds of biz luminaries, including legendary film historian Donald Richie, packed the Tokyo International Forum for the opening film, helmer Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.”

Jury chairperson Ulrich Gregor, the director of the International Forum of New Cinema, said in an opening address that he has been a long-time admirer of the collection of unique films and filmmakers that Filmex attracts. “What unites us all is the passion for film, the hope for a brilliant future of cinema and further development,” said Gregor.

In its 11th year, Filmex will feature roughly 40 new and classic films at theaters in the Yurakucho entertainment and business district.

The opening pic, which claimed the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival, is a surreal journey through rural Thailand by a dying man. The spiritual and ghost-like aspects of the film are not unusual for a work by Weerasethakul, whose story of fear and love during war, “Tropical Malady,” was awarded the Grand Prize at Filmex in 2004.

“The nature of cinema is that of a time machine,” said Weerasethakul of “Uncle Boonmee,” which will open theatrically in Japan at Cinema Rise in Tokyo’s Shibuya district next spring. “It is a tool to record the past and to reflect the future. At the same time, I try to find a relationship between cinema and how our minds work in terms of remembering. When we remember things, have multiple layers. It is not totally linear. It is more like random flashes of events.”

For the main competition, 10 films from around Asia will vie for the top prize, including “The Stool Pigeon,” Dante Lam’s detective pic set in his native Hong Kong, “Peace,” Kazuhiro Soda’s pondering of the meaning of life through an elderly care facility in Okayama, Japan, and “Bedevilled” the debut gore pic by Korean director Cheol-soo Jang.

Among the highlights in the “Special Screenings” program are “Cold Fish,” the latest from Sion Sono (“Love Exposure”) that tells the story of a murder spree by a tropical fish salesman, “I Wish I Knew,” Chinese director Zhang-ke Jia’s look at contemporary Shanghai, and “The Days After,” the Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Wonderful Life”) fantasy about a couple coping with the loss of their young son.

Studio Shochiku will contribute 14 Japanese films to “Golden Classics 1950s,” including pics from legends like Yasujiro Ozu (“Tokyo Story” and “Late Spring”), Minoru Shibuya (“A Good Man, A Good Day” and “Modern People”), and Keisuke Kinoshita (“The Portrait” and “Carmen Comes Home”).

The closing pic, slated for November 28, will be “Poetry,” the Chang-dong Lee (“Secret Sunshine”) drama centered on a grandmother who stumbles upon a shocking discovery that won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes this year.