Takashi Miike’s ‘Shield of Straw’ to compete at the 66th annual Cannes Film Festival

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"Shield of Straw" teaser poster

For a third year in a row, Japanese director Takashi Miike will have one of his films screen in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

Miike’s latest film, Shield of Straw, will screen at the 66th annual Cannes Film Festival which runs from May 15-26.

Miike saw his films Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai and For Love’s Sake screen previously at Cannes in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

According to Variety.com, the film synopsis is as follows:

“The pic is based on Kazuhiro Kiuchi’s eponymous best-seller about cops transporting a confessed killer across country. They must evade bounty hunters out to collect the $12 million price on the murderer’s head offered by the victim’s rich grandfather.”

Keeping it ‘REAL’: Kiyoshi Kurosawa returns to theaters this year

Photo Courtesy of www.SciFiJapan.com

It’s been a long five years since Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa last released a film on the big screen but fans of his work need not wait much longer.

On June 1st, Kiyoshi’s REAL will open in theaters across Japan and, if you’re like me and do not live in Japan, don’t be too sad as REAL will undoubtedly make appearances at international film festivals and, eventually, find its way onto DVD and Blu-ray.

Kiyoshi, who has directed popular Japanese films such as Bright Future (2003), Pulse (2001), and Cure (1997), will make his directorial return with an adaptation of the award-winning Japanese novel A Perfect Day for Plesiosaur. The novel, written by Rokuro Inui, came out in 2011 and, according to SciFiJapan, won the Grand Prize at This Mystery is Excellent! – an annual mystery fiction competition held in Japan.

According to IMDB, the plot synopsis to REAL is as follows:

“Koichi and Atsumi are childhood friends who have become lovers. Despite this closeness when Atsumi attempts suicide Koichi is at a loss to understand the circumstances that drove her to do such a thing. Now she is in a coma and Koichi needs to find out the reason. Since Koichi is a neurosurgeon he has access to the latest studies and so he takes part in a medical procedure that will allow him to enter Atsumi’s subconscious. Through ‘sensing’, a type of neurosurgical procedure allowing contact with the intentional aspect of a comatose patient’s mind, Koichi tries to discover why Atsumi tried to kill herself, and to bring her back to consciousness.

When he enters her mind she asks him to find a picture which she drew as a child. It is the key to a suppressed memory connected to a childhood trauma, an incident buried in their past which will bring their minds together and allow him to get close to truly knowing his love.”

Sources: Twitchflim and SciFiJapan

A quick chat with ‘Are We Not Cats’ director Xander Robin’

Photo Courtesy of Xander Robin

Photo Courtesy of Xander Robin

As the lights dimmed inside the Brattle Theater, filmmaker Xander Robin had a huge smile plastered across his young face, as he was about to share his latest short film Are We Not Cats with an audience of strangers for the first time.

I caught up with Xander, who came to the Boston Underground Film Festival with Are We Not Cats actress Kelsea Dakota, a few days after the screening to get his thoughts on premiering a movie in front of a crowd, technical difficulties, his plans on making a feature length film, just how important the last few seconds of Are We Not Cats are, and of course, how he felt winning the Director’s Choice Award of Best Short Film at the Boston Underground Film Festival.

LostintheMiso: So how does it feel to know that your peers chose your film for Best Short?

Xander Robin: I am ecstatic especially because I love all of the other films that were chosen for awards.

LostintheMiso: How did you go about being chosen by BUFF this year? This was Are We Not Cats‘ world premiere, yes? Describe your feelings as the film began to screen.

Xander Robin: I submitted a work in progress. Before BUFF, the largest amount of people that had seen it at once was five dudes in a room. Before and during the screening there was an inevitable anxiety.

LostintheMiso: There was an awkward moment when the film stopped due to a technical issue, that must have been heart-stopping. What was going through your head?

Xander Robin: I’ve seen many technical problems at various festivals so it’s never a jaw dropping surprise. I also had a couple drinks before the screening to calm my nerves, which my heart was thankful for in that moment. I’m glad that they rewound [the film] to a logical point and let the film build again. Hopefully everyone gave it the benefit of the doubt.

LostintheMiso: How did Are We Not Cats‘ story come about? The hair eating is obviously an unsettling component to the young couple’s relationship and yet theres a tenderness to their love. Where did the inspiration for the hair eating come from?

Xander Robin: The hair pulling/hair eating relationship is something I had been developing into a feature, drawn from both personal experiences and observations. Myself and my director of photography/co-producer Matt Clegg didn’t want to rush into production on a feature after we had moved to NYC [Editor’s Note: Xander graduated from Florida State University College of Motion Picture Art with a BFA and now lives in Brooklyn, NY] so I used an alternate situation and scouted some locations and we produced the short based on a treatment.

LostintheMiso: In many ways Are We Not Cats hinges upon the last eight seconds of the film. It could have turned out cheesy but was very well done. How long did that scene take to film?

Xander Robin: The very end took no more than two hours to prepare and shoot on location. The prop(s) took about a week to make. The take used was the first take; her [Actress Kelsea Dakota] expressions of going through that motion could not be replicated after it had been experienced for the first time. It is true, the entire film was made for the last 8 seconds.

LostintheMiso: Where can people see Are We Not Cats and your previous work The Virgin Herod and Kodachrome 2012?

Xander Robin: Are We Not Cats can be viewed online but it is password protected for now. I would like for it to screen a few more times before making it publicly viewable later this year. If anyone would like to see it, send me an email at info@xanderrobin.com. My other films can be seen on that website or on vimeo.com/xanderrobin.

LostintheMiso: Finally, do you have any interest in doing a full-length film?

Xander Robin: This short has helped me figure a few things out regarding this concept and have since rewritten my feature. I’m working on making that happen early next year.

I’d like to thank Xander Robin for taking the time to answer a few questions and whenever his feature film debuts, I’ll be one of the first in line.

BUFF15 Coverage: ‘Are We Not Cats’ Review

Photo Courtesy of www.xanderrobin.com

Photo Courtesy of http://www.xanderrobin.com

One of the highlights of the 15th annual Boston Underground Film Festival (BUFF15) this year was the short film Are We Not Cats.

Written, produced, directed and edited by Xander Robin, an up-and-comer from Brooklyn, New York, who graduated from Florida State University with a BFA in Motion Picture Arts, Are We Not Cats delighted the Brattle Theater audience it was screened before.

Xander makes great use of his 12 minute runtime and quickly sets up the films simple premise – a young couple are on a road trip when the young man (played by Michael Patrick) discovers his girlfriend (the beautiful Kelsea Dakota) has been compulsively eating his hair while he sleeps.

Patrick and Dakota work well together and the latter gives a daring performance that should be commended.

With such a short runtime, it’d be impossible to discuss what occurs within the film without spoiling the ending (and boy what an ending it is).

The final eight seconds of the film make the movie, a fact which Xander admits to in his interview with me (to be posted later). To give away this brilliantly quirky film’s ending would be a disservice to Xander and those who have yet to see it.

I wasn’t the only one who really dug this movie as it won “Director’s Choice Award for Short Film.”

This is a little movie with a big heart and it definitely stood out at this year’s festival.

News: Film critic Roger Ebert dead at the age of 70

Photo courtesy of www.thedailybeast.com

Famed film critic and journalist Roger Ebert succumbed to a long battle with cancer on Thursday, April 4th, 2013.

Ebert was the first film critic to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism as well as the first film critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Anyone who gives a damn about movies knows the importance of Ebert’s work in celebrating the art of film. It is with great sadness that his fans must say goodbye to him.

Ebert was an enthusiastic fan of all types of film and Japanese cinema was no exception. 16 Japanese films appeared on his “Great Movies” list which included Kurosawa’s samurai epic Yojimbo, Miyazaki’s animated My Neighbor Tototro, and the 2009 Academy Award winner for best foreign language film Departures.

Roger Ebert is survived by his wife Chaz Ebert and countless fans of his work.

 

Sion Sono will use YouTube to find actors for his next film, ‘Tokyo Tribes’

Photo courtesy of www.YesAsia.com

Santa Inoue’s manga Tokyo Tribes will be getting a live-action treatment by none other than Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono (Himizu, Noriko’s Dinner Table and Suicide Club).

The even bigger news?

Sono has created a YouTube channel that will hold open auditions for anyone interested in being casted in a role.

Those who visit the Tokyo Tribe open audition channel on YouTube will find Sono and Inoue in two introductory videos as well two sample audition videos.

Tokyo Tribes, originally a manga and later an anime, tells the story of a future Tokyo where street gangs, or “tribes,” battle for supremacy. For those concerned that Sono, whose last few films have included his transgressive “Hate” trilogy (Love Exposure, Coldfish and Guilty of Romance) as well as Himizu and The Land of Hope which both deal with the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011, has sold out by choosing to direct a film adaptation of a popular manga and anime, well, don’t worry. Sono’s choice to cast his film via YouTube auditions shows he is as unconventional as ever.

Sources:  Nippon Cinema and Twitchfilm